• The Nortons on the Cincinnati Billboard Tax

    On June 27 Cincinnati passed a 10% tax on billboard revenues to fund the city’s budget.  If you are not paying attention you should.  Baltimore has a billboard tax and Insider expects to see more cash-strapped cities attempt to pass billboard taxes to fund city services.  Mike, Kevin and Tom Norton made excellent arguments before the city council about why a billboard tax is unfair and illegal.  Insider is printing their testimony below.

    Mike Norton, Norton Outdoor

    My name is Mike Norton, I’m with Norton Outdoor Advertising.  We’re a third generation billboard company in Cincinnati, doing business since 1949.  I’m here to ask that the billboard tax which was put in just a day or two ago be removed from the ordinance due to the fact that it is holistically unfair, unreasonable and very likely illegal.  We are already taxed in two forms.  We pay income tax and we also pay permit fees that are essentially a tax to do business which we agreed that is appropriate to do so.  We’re already a very highly regulated business and increasingly more so with overlay districts…This tax is picking on an industry that has two companies.  My sense is this was done intentionally because we have no constituency but it also speaks to the fairness of the proposed tax.  To pick on just two in the industry speaks of unfairness and the brevity we were given to respond also speaks to that unfairness.  In fact this effects more than just two companies…It effects 85% of our business which is local or regional, including iconic institutions like the museum center, FC Cincinnati, Cincinnati Reds, area hospitals, schools, and we also do a lot of work for public service organizations which we wouldn’t be able to do under the auspices of this tax.  Lastly, the legality of this tax is questionable given cases in other cities so we ask that you remove this tax from the ordinance immediately.  Thank you.

    Kevin Norton, Norton Outdoor

    Hi, my name is Kevin Norton.  I’m going to reiterate a lot of what my cousin said.  We are asking that this tax be removed from the ordinance because we feel that it is unfair and it is illegal.  1st amendment and 14th amendment rights are violated.   We are already paying income tax and we are already paying permit taxes…85% of our business comes from locally owned, small businesses, iconic institutions and we will have to just pass this along.  So we are asking that this tax be removed.  Thank you.

    Tom Norton, Norton Outdoor

    Mr Mayor and ladies and gentlemen of this council.  Let me put some numbers to what this proposed tax does to my family.  This tax equals 10% of our revenue.  How can you reach into anybody’s business and take 10% of their revenue.  I applaud a lot of these services you’re trying to do but you’re putting this on the back of one industry which is two companies – my family and the Lamar Outdoor Advertising company.  It’s just not fair.  It’s just not fair.  10%.  What business can sustain that sort of government intrusion after we’ve paid the taxes that Kevin just articulated and the permit fees.  I’m beyond frustrated.  We didn’t even know about this until Monday.  There’s no public hearings on this.  You want to raise $700,000 from two companies.  It’s just not right folks and I ask you to take it out of the budget.  Thank you.

    You can watch the Norton’s testimony at this link.  Their testimony begins at minute 25.45.

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