Omaha’s Fun Tax

Venues of all sizes, bars, restaurants, movie theatres, bowling alleys and theme parks could take a hit in Omaha, Neb., where the mayor is floating an entertainment tax to ring up some new revenue.

Mayor Jim Suttle’s proposal would impose a 2 percent tax on “entertainment or amusement” businesses that are “directly or indirectly benefited from tourism and recreational activity that places unique demands on the city’s resources.”

While Suttle’s ordinance acknowledges that entertainment and amusements should be promoted and encouraged within the city, it seems that times are simply too tough to not spread the tax burden. Omaha faces an $11 million budget shortfall in 2010, on top of this year’s $12 million budget deficit.

Needless to say, many involved in the city’s entertainment had an opinion on the proposal during a recent meeting with the city council.

“Now is the time we need to be more competitive as a city recruiting top concerts, major conventions and major events to Omaha,” Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority President Roger Dixon told councilors, according to WOWT News.

MECA, which oversees the city’s Qwest Center, was thrown a bone in an amended version of the ordinance that exempted non-profits from the tax, but food and beverages at Qwest would still be subject to it.

Others at the meeting questioned whether city finances would take more of a hit.

“We think the new tax will do just the opposite, could actually decrease revenues by decreased entertainment spending,” a member of the Metropolitan Hospitality Association said.

If passed the ordinance could reportedly raise about $10 million annually.

The city council is expected to vote on it in the coming week.