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Using Palm Beach County bed tax to pay for Trump security dead for now

An idea to use Palm Beach County “bed tax” money to help pay for security and roadway management during President Donald Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach is dead for now.

On March 19, County Commissioner Steven Abrams asked whether money from the tourist development tax, the 6 percent tax on hotel and motel stays, could help defray costs of Trump’s frequent trips to Palm Beach if the county did not receive federal assistance.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: President Donald Trump in Palm Beach

But Abrams said Thursday that it “would require an amendment to existing law” and it was too late to try to push such a change through this year’s session of the Florida Legislature, which is set to end in early May.

Trump arrived Thursday evening for Easter weekend, the seventh of 13 weekends he has visited Palm Beach during his presidency. He also came as president-elect in November and December.

The estimated costs by local agencies to protect him already are approaching $3.7 million. Most of that was paid by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, but Sheriff Ric Bradshaw remains confident that the federal government will reimburse some or all of that. Other local officials are skeptical about federal reimbursement.

Abrams had said a section of state law indicates a coastal county could use part of its bed tax for “impacts related to increased tourism and visitors to an area.” But officials said the law appeared to allow only counties with populations of less than 225,000 to use bed tax money that way. Palm Beach has about 1.4 million residents.

Abrams said in March that getting the Legislature to expand that allowance to larger counties was worth a try since “we know he’s (Trump) going to be visiting for the next four years.”

Bed tax money has been used to build sports facilities and to promote culture and tourism, and officials have said most of it is spoken for each year. Over the past three years, it has generated an average of $41 million annually in Palm Beach County.

Meanwhile, Abrams’ colleague, Commissioner Dave Kerner, separately floated the idea of assessing the owner of Mar-a-Lago a tax pegged to special benefits provided by the county, namely that extra security and roadway patrols. County Mayor Paulette Burdick has said she’d rather have the money come from the feds.

The county plans later this year to finish a study to get a better understanding of the costs and benefits of Trump’s visits. Palm Beach County tourism and convention groups say they had not compiled numbers on direct economic impact from the reporters, government entourages and protesters who patronize Palm Beach County hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail outlets every time Trump is in town. But they say there’s also an indirect impact from the world spotlight on the county.

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