STATES' LAWMAKERS COOL TO AD TAX PLANS

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Here is a rundown on marketing-related issues at the state and local level, as gathered by the American Advertising Federation.

IDAHO

The Legislature adjourned without passing a bill to extend the state's sales tax to numerous services, including advertising. AAF Idaho Legislative Chair Tim Pace, senior VP at Steele, Stoltz & Associates, testified against the proposed service tax, which would have been used to fund a 17% to 27% cut in property taxes. Lawmakers did pass a measure reducing the property tax, but did not increase other taxes to replace the lost revenue. Gov. Cecil Andrus vetoed the bill.

WISCONSIN

The Legislature adjourned with no agreement on proposals to reduce property taxes and reform education financing. The stalemate occurred in spite of a report issued earlier in the session by the state's Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which contended $73.5 million could be raised by extending Wisconsin's 5% sales tax to exempt goods and services.

MICHIGAN

Residents voted to increase the state's sales tax from 4% to 6% in an effort to replenish education funding sources. The state's school system lost its sole revenue source last summer when lawmakers voted to eliminate property taxes. Had voters rejected the sales tax increase, the state income tax would have automatically jumped from 4.6% to 6%. As the debate over revenue options progressed, taxes on advertising and other services were proposed, but never seriously considered.

OHIO

An ordinance has been introduced in Cincinnati to prohibit outdoor advertising for tobacco products. On May 9, Advertising Club Cincinnati Legislative Chair Michael Hensley of Segal Rentshler and AAF VP-state governmental affairs Clark Rector testified before the City Council in opposition to the ordinance. The measure is sponsored by Councilman Tom Luken. While in Congress, he conducted numerous hearings on legislation he introduced to severely restrict all tobacco advertising.

VERMONT

The Vermont House passed legislation prohibiting the use of cartoon characters in ads for "addictive substances" that "may not be lawfully purchased by a person less than 18 years of age." Although the bill, which targets tobacco advertising, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, further action has not been scheduled.

NEW YORK

On April 12, Erie County Executive Dennis T. Gorski conducted a public hearing on a proposal approved by Erie County officials banning tobacco advertising in all county-owned facilities.

MINNESOTA

Legislation was introduced in the Minnesota Senate banning casino and lottery advertising. During floor consideration, however, the bill was amended to prohibit only state lottery advertising. Steve Bergerson, AAF Minnesota legislative chair and Advertising Federation of Minnesota general counsel, is working with an in-state industry coalition to monitor and oppose the legislation.

FLORIDA

In light of the controversy over the Florida Citrus Commission's purchase of ad spots during the Rush Limbaugh show, six Florida state representatives recently threatened to restrict the content of future commission ads. Legislators discussed amending a proposal to designate revenue to Florida's Citrus Advertising Trust Fund. A draft of the amendment stated, "Advertising purchased by the Citrus Commission may be designed and executed in such a manner as to reflect the racial and gender composition of the state." The language, which can be interpreted on a broad scope, seems to imply that all copy and artwork for future ads would have to be gender and racially balanced so as to represent all Floridians. Florida representative Victor Crist (a former AAF Florida legislative chair) along with AAF Legislative Chair Frankie Le Socky, of Harry Moody Outdoor Advertising, Belleview, and AAF Fourth District lobbyist Bob Levy argued that advertisers must be able to target specific audiences to be effective. The amendment was withdrawn.

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