Grassroots advocacy efforts by members of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) defeated new taxation proposals that would have cost travel agencies in Illinois, Maine, Ohio and Pennsylvania over $62.6 million per year, ASTA reports.
“Expanding state sales taxes to travel agency services would have been devastating to our industry, and in defeating these proposals in four states – guided by headquarters – ASTA members have set the gold standard for grassroots engagement,” said ASTA Executive Vice President, Advocacy Eben Peck in a written release. “We applaud both their efforts and these state legislators’ decisions to drop these proposals from their budgets.”
In early 2017, Governors in Illinois, Maine, Ohio and Pennsylvania proposed to expand their state sales taxes to travel agency services in one form or another, ranging from “travel arrangement and reservation services” in Maine and Pennsylvania to “travel agent services” in Illinois to “travel agent: prepackaged tours and other travel services” in Ohio. While the exact impact of these proposals was unclear due to vague wording, ASTA estimated that they would have collectively cost agencies in Illinois $22.2 million per year in new taxes, $994,000 in Maine, $23.2 million in Ohio and $16.2 million in Pennsylvania. In state after state, these proposals were stripped out of the budget, with Pennsylvania the last state to resolve its budget process when Governor Wolf signed a revenue package with no new taxes on agents on October 30.
ASTA launched grassroots campaigns in all four states, where efforts were led by ASTA Midwest Chapter President Jesse Guerra in Illinois (resulting in 91 advocacy messages to state legislators), by Maine Chapter President Andy Holmes in that state, by then-Mid America Chapter President Claudia Darling in Ohio (resulting in 568 advocacy messages) and by multiple members and chapter representatives in Pennsylvania (resulting in 122 advocacy messages). As part of these campaigns, ASTA headquarters empowered its members to make their voices heard by state legislators through legislative updates, talking points and other grassroots resources it provided.
“The hard work of ASTA members in Illinois, Maine, Ohio and Pennsylvania ensures that agencies in those states won’t be slapped with almost $63 million collectively in new taxes every year,” said Peck. “Advocating for travel agents at all levels of government is a core part of ASTA’s mission.”