Gopal / Testa Bill to Increase Funding for Arts, Historical Heritage and Tourism Advances

A bill sponsored by Senators Vin Gopal and Michael Testa that would increase the allocation of revenues from the hotel and motel occupancy fee towards arts, historical heritage, and tourism purposes from 40 percent to 100 percent was passed out of the Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

Under the bill, S-2986, all of the hotel and motel occupancy fee revenues would be allocated as follows:

a) 56.7 percent would go to the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for cultural projects as long as the actual dollar amount allocated is at least $31.9 million;

b) 9.6 percent would go to the New Jersey Historical Commission for historical heritage purposes, as long as at least $5.5 million is allocated;

c) 31.9 percent would go to the Division of Travel and Tourism in the Department of State for tourism as long as at least $17.6 million is allocated; and

d) 1.8 percent would go to the New Jersey Cultural Trust as long as the amount is not less than $720,000.

“The hotel-motel occupancy fee has been around for nearly 20 years, but that dedicated revenue has not always been plowed back into the arts, historic preservation or tourism as it should have been,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “We need to solidify support for these institutions that are so much a part of our state’s identity.

“This bill would make sure all the monies generated would be targeted towards New Jersey artists, historic sites and tourist attractions, where it could then be paid forward by attracting more patrons and tourists and in the process boosting local economies across the state.”

The fund generated approximately $112 million in the 2019 fiscal year.

“With a more dependable, stable funding source, beneficial arts and preservation programs throughout the state will be better positioned to serve New Jersey residents,” said Senator Testa (R-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Committing a generous portion of the money from the occupancy tax to tourism will create a cycle bringing more visitors to the state, higher room occupancy rates, and additional revenue to pour back into these programs. Cape May County sends almost a half billion dollars in tourism tax to Trenton and only about $1 million comes back in return. It is time to pass legislation so we can invest in our tourism economy to bolster our community.”