Last year, lawmakers killed a similar proposal in the final moments of the session. This year's bill has the support of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. Lockhart said in February that she backs the 2014 measure because it offers discounts to convention visitors on subsequent trips to Utah, which helps the entire state and not just Salt Lake City.
On Friday, Royce Van Tassell, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, criticized the bill, saying it subsidizes tourism that would occur even without government help. "It is just inappropriate to provide subsidies" for hotels already receiving plenty of visitors, Van Tassell said.
Critics earlier said they feared the new hotel would usurp business from existing hotels. The group included Jordan Garn, the executive director of the Utah Hotel & Lodging Association.
But lawmakers have since proposed that at least $2.1 million go to other hotels to help them cope with empty rooms after the new one goes up. Garn spoke in favor of the measure Friday.
The added marketing piece also won support from Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City. The measure would bring Salt Lake City on par with other major cities, she said.
"We are clearly on the cusp of becoming in the big leagues," Jones said.
HB 356: http://1.usa.gov/1lGpAGw