The 1 percent increase proposed for the local-option sales tax in Ketchum and Hailey is essential for dealing with the chicken-and-egg question, “Which comes first, new air service or new visitors?”
The increase would raise an estimated $2 million annually that would be used to reduce the risk of losing money for airlines that provide service from major cities to the Sun Valley area. The tax increase isn’t a perfect solution, but there is no perfect solution in Idaho’s imperfect world of strangling tax limits on cities and the imperfect world of travel economics.
In these imperfect worlds in which the Sun Valley economy must operate, competing mountain towns subsidize airline seats to get airlines to fly to their areas. Without revenue guarantees now provided largely by Sun Valley Resort, the Sun Valley area likely would not have even the air service that exists today from Seattle and Salt Lake City. To complicate matters, the guarantees are not large enough to encourage airlines to establish new direct routes from other cities.
Ketchum and Hailey voters can rend their garments, tear out their hair and scream to high heaven that it just shouldn’t be this way, that no new tax should be necessary, that airlines and local businesses should just pony up and pay, and that if visitors really want to come here they will.
However, that’s spitting in the wind.
The health of the area’s economy depends on 60 percent of voters approving the new tax. We can help ourselves or we can languish in the glassy waters of a stagnant, stinking economy. It’s our choice.
The voters of Ketchum and Hailey should not let a cranky minority rule on this one. Vote yes to increase the resort cities local-option sales tax.