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Lawmaker wants to tax political advertisements
[March 11, 2009]

Lawmaker wants to tax political advertisements

(The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Mar. 11--HARRISBURG -- A state lawmaker today will introduce legislation to levy sales tax on political advertising, but a prominent campaign consultant said that's akin to taxing freedom of speech.

Television or radio ads by political candidates would be subject to the 6 percent tax, said Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills.

He would use the estimated $6.6 million in revenue to help pay for adultBasic health care, state subsidized medical insurance for low-income workers.

The tax would apply to presidential candidates, those seeking statewide offices, and candidates for the General Assembly.

John Brabender, a Pittsburgh consultant who produces ads for candidates, said it shows how "tax-crazy Pennsylvania has become." A political ad is in essence an opinion, Brabender said. "They want to tax you for giving an opinion. There's certainly an absurdity involved in that," he said.

Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason of Johnstown called it a "tax on the First Amendment" and "a bad idea." With lawmakers considering taxes on a variety of things, from video poker to natural gas, Brabender asked, "Where are they going to stop?" Taxing political ads also would include an element of "incumbent protection," Brabender said. Challengers generally raise less money than incumbents.

Gleason agreed, saying, "It would penalize the little guy who has a tough time raising money by increasing his costs." Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell, said he's not sure "taxing speech" is appropriate. He joked that if the Legislature decides to tax campaign ads, it should double the tax on negative ads.

DeLuca acknowledged that some people might worry the legislation would infringe on free speech. To address that, he said, he would suggest taxing all advertising -- including ads for attorneys.

"People would be happy to tax all that stuff," he said.

With state tax collections sagging because of the recession, "we need to start looking at some of these (revenue sources) where we can," DeLuca said.

DeLuca said he will present his plan at a news conference today.

Brad Bumsted can be reached at [email protected] or 717-787-1405.

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