To raise their voices above the din of anti-tax crusaders at the state capital, Ohio's cable operators have commissioned a poll designed to show that consumers agree that a sales tax on cable television is unfair.
Gov. Bob Taft has proposed a plethora of new taxes and fees designed to retire an estimated $4 billion budget shortfall. That set off a rush by 80 different groups lobbying in opposition, including sports teams (protesting admission taxes), real-estate brokers (against a levy on commissions) and dry cleaners.
"We must be the king of the jungle and roar over the rest," said Ohio Cable Telecommunications Association executive vice president Ed Kozelek.
The OCTA estimated that a cable sales tax would cost cable subscribers $70 million per year.
The poll, conducted by Triad Research Group, sampled subscribers' opinions. Results will be used in arguing against a sales tax that would double the existing freight of a 5-percent franchise fee.
State law also allows counties to piggyback a state levy, Kozelek said. Thus, counties could add a 1 percent to 3 percent charge, on top of the state assessment.
In the poll, 83 percent of consumers said they want operators to fight the tax. Respondents would rather pay a small increase in the general sales tax than take a bigger hit on their cable bill. Twenty-eight percent want no tax increase at all. Subscribers also oppose expanding the scope of taxes to apply to all cable-delivered products, including high-speed data service.
Most alarming, 66 percent of consumers polled said they'd cut back or drop cable service if the price went up another 5 percent, while 10 percent said they'd switch to direct-broadcast satellite.
Ohio operators also are filling their local ad avails with an anti-tax spot, asking consumers to dial 1-866-NOTVTAX. OCTA staffers answering that line have been providing consumers with telephone contacts for their state representatives.
Ohio's constitution mandates a balanced budget by July 1. The budget package is before the state House, with a vote set for April 9.