Tourism Tax Suit Dismissed After Resort Owner Sells Property

Fight to protect free speech could continue with another property owner

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation dismissed the lawsuit it filed in June on behalf of a Michigan resort owner. His constitutionally protected free speech rights were violated when a regional tourism bureau taxed him to subsidize marketing campaigns he opposes.

After contacting the Mackinac Center about what would eventually become his case, plaintiff George Galbraith received an offer on his property, The Landings on Indian River, and made the decision to sell it and retire. Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox filed a motion to dismiss the case in October.

Wilcox and the rest of the team at the Mackinac Center wishes Galbraith well in his retirement and thanks him for bringing attention and lending his story to such an important issue. 

The case centered on the fact that tourism bureaus across the state levy taxes on rented rooms to fund regional tourism marketing campaigns. In Galbraith’s case, it was the Indian River Area Tourist Bureau that was taxing property owners like him to pay for an outdated website he neither wanted nor needed.

Forcing people to subsidize speech they disagree with violates their First Amendment rights. It is for that reason, and because no one should tell business owners how to conduct their advertising, that the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation agreed to take on the challenge.

The issue at the heart of the case remains relevant: The U.S. and Michigan constitutions protect a person from being forced to subsidize speech against his or her will. The Center would welcome another hotel owner to come forward to carry on the fight.

Galbraith’s case was highlighted throughout the state, particularly in northern Michigan. Some of the outlets to cover the case and the larger issue of unaccountable, inaccessible tourism boards were Michigan Public Radio, the Petoskey News-Review, Up North Live and 9 & 10 News.