Michigan Phone Companies Begin Media Assault on Proposed Tax

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Michigan telephone companies on Thursday launched an advertising campaign against a proposed $1.35 monthly fee on all phones, which would raise $200 million a year for law enforcement and fire services.

Legislation that would create the surcharge, which critics call a tax, is pending before the Democratic-led state House Appropriations Committee.

"This bill will shift $200 million in taxes onto every telephone and cell phone bill in the state," said Scott Stevenson, president of the Telecommunications Association of Michigan.

The group ran an ad opposing the bill in four newspapers Thursday. It also will air a 60-second radio ad on 12 stations around the state beginning this weekend.

Users of landlines, cell phones and Voice over Internet Protocol would pay an extra $16.20 a year if the proposal becomes law. The bill sponsored by House Appropriations Chairman George Cushingberry Jr., D-Detroit, is supported by some law enforcement groups as state government is facing a $1.6 billion shortfall in the next budget.

State law currently lets counties impose a monthly 911 fee on landline bills, which range from 16 cents to $4.34, depending on the county.

Republican-sponsored bills passed by the state Senate would let counties charge 911 fees to cell phone users and users of Voice over Internet Protocol. The legislation also would reduce the state's monthly 29-cent surcharge that only cell users pay and start applying it to landline owners as well, at a new rate of 19 cents.

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