CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.Res. XXX is expected to be considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. XXX (D-XX) on XXX.
H.Res. XXX provides for the passage of H.R. 1299 and S. 1023 (see below). Both of these bills have been passed by the House previously. In the case of S. 1023, the bill was passed attached to H.R. 1035, which passed the House on October 7, 2009.
Summary of S. 1023:
Visitor Tax: The bill would impose a fee on foreign visitors to the U.S. from Visa Waiver Program countries, to be established and collected by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The initial fee would be $10 per travel authorization. These fees would be deposited into the Fund described below. The Secretary would not be able to collect the fee after September 30, 2014.
Corporation for Travel Promotion: This provision would establish a nonprofit Corporation for Travel Promotion to be headed by an 11-member board of directors to be appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. Board members would not receive compensation. The bill does allow the Corporation to have an executive director and employees.
The Corporation would develop and execute a plan to (1) provide information to foreign visitors regarding U.S. entry requirements and fees; (2) identify "misconceptions" regarding U.S. entry policies; (3) advertise and promote the benefits of travel to the U.S.; (4) ensure that all States and D.C. benefit from international travel; and (5) prioritize activities towards countries and populations most likely to travel to the U.S. Specifically, the Corporation would be able obtain grants and enter into contracts with companies, State, and federal agencies, and hire consultants, for example.
Limitations on Expenditures: The Corporation would not be able to spend more than $25 million on any campaign, unless approved by two-thirds of the board members. The Corporation would have to adopt a budget for each fiscal year and undergo annual audits. The budget would be sent to the Secretary of Commerce and would available to the public on the Corporation's website. The Corporation is required to submit an annual report to Congress.
Annual Assessment: The bill would authorize the Corporation to impose and collect an annual assessment on U.S. members of the travel industry represented on the Board, in proportion to their share of the aggregate revenue of the industry. The initial aggregate assessment could not exceed $20 million. The assessment would have to be approved by a majority of members of the industry in a referendum. The Corporation would be able to bring suit in federal court to compel compliance with this assessment.
Travel Promotion Fund: Under the bill, a Travel Promotion Fund would be established in the Treasury. In Fiscal Year 2010, the Treasury Secretary would make up to $10 million available to cover the Corporation's initial activities. In Fiscal Years 2011-2014, the Secretary would make up to $100 million available to the Fund. No funds would be available to the Corporation in Fiscal Year 2011, unless the Corporation provides matching non-federal funds equal to at least 50 percent. In Fiscal Years after 2011, the Corporation would have to provide matching funds equal to 100 percent. Goods and services other than money may be included in non-federal source matches, but could not account for more than 80 percent of the required match.
Office of Travel Promotion: The bill would establish an Office of Travel Promotion at the Department of Commerce. This office would serve as a liaison to the Corporation and support programs to increase the number of international visitors to the U.S.
Authorization of Appropriations: The bill would authorize such sums as may be necessary to the Secretary of Commerce for Fiscal Years 2010-2014 to carry out expanded research programs at the existing Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.
Some Members may have several concerns with this provision that would create a government tourism advertising campaign funded by taxes on international visitors. Some Members may believe that taxing visitors during an economic downturn would in fact discourage visitors coming to the U.S. Furthermore, according to the Heritage Foundation, the tourism industry is the second-largest service export industry, and thus some Members may view it as a subsidy to large companies.
Additionally, the European Union has informed the Obama Administration that it opposes this provision. In a June 19, 2009, letter, the European Commission Ambassador wrote that the provision would "constitute a step backwards in our joint endeavour to ease transatlantic mobility" and have "potentially negative implications on reciprocal visa-free travel between the EU and the U.S." This could feasibly mean reciprocal taxes on American travelers to Europe.