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After The Jobs Bill, Reid Moves To Tourism

February 24, 2010 - by Eric Naing

With today’s passage of a $15 billion jobs bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has taken the first step in his incremental plan to address job creation. A potential next step is a bill designed to encourage foreign tourism to the United States.

The Travel Promotion Act creates a nonprofit corporation that would promote tourism to this country. The corporation would initially be funded with $10 million from the government. In the future, the corporation would be paid for by a $10 fee on foreign travellers and by private donations that would be matched up to $100 million by the government.

The bill is of special interest to Reid who faces a very tough re-election fight this year. His home state of Nevada, and Las Vegas in particular, are heavily dependent on the tourism industry. Last summer, Reid explained on his website how Las Vegas influenced the bill and what its passage would mean for Nevada:

This bill would use the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s model for Las Vegas, applying it to the whole country by creating a Corporation for Travel Promotion. That new entity would market the United States around the globe as a tourist destination.

Of course, as the number of tourists coming to the United States increases, so will the number of people who visit Nevada. More than 230,000 Nevada jobs depend on tourism and because our state has no state income tax, its budget relies heavily on revenues generated from the tourism industry.

Unlike most things in the Senate now, this bill has a good chance of passing – especially since both the House and Senate already passed a version of it last year.

The Senate last September passed its version of the Travel Promotion Act (S.1023) by an overwhelming 79-19 vote. To expedite the process in the House, the language of the Act was added to an unrelated House bill (H.R.1035), which the House passed in a 358-66 vote last October. But thanks to that procedural maneuver, the Act must once again be passed by the Senate.

Travel industry groups aggressively support the bill and tout a Congressional Budget Office report that the Travel Promotion Act would reduce the federal deficit by $425 million over a decade.

Reid is hoping that the Senate will act on this bill next week. Other steps being considered as part of the Senate Democratic jobs agenda are a renewal of expired tax credits, tax cuts and other tools to help small business and an extension of unemployment insurance.

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