AUSTINTOWN Taft's tax plan sparks forum

Among the participants were two dogs.
AUSTINTOWN -- A handful of state legislators and business owners expressed frustration Sunday afternoon about Gov. Bob Taft's proposal to raise taxes on car titles, movie tickets and many other things.
State Sen. Marc Dann and state Reps. John Boccieri, Dan Sferra and Kenneth Carano gathered with area business owners at Austintown Movies, in the Austintown Plaza, to discuss the potential impacts of the tax increases.
Speaking to a crowd of about 30 people -- and two dogs -- Dann, of Liberty, D-32nd, said, "We're calling on the community to write the governor, call the governor's office and tell them you want reliable, good fiscal numbers from the state. ... We're not saying whether [this plan] is needed or not. We have no way of knowing."
Dann said he brought the dogs to emphasize that the tax proposal, which includes dog grooming, will affect many businesses and their customers.
Movie manager worries
Sean Caszatt, general manager of Austintown Movies, said he is especially concerned about the influence the increases could have on his business. Austintown Movies is a discount movie theater that brings in independent films, and he said the possible 50-cent increase could have a greater effect on his theater than on mainstream theaters in the Mahoning Valley.
Caszett said the higher ticket costs could translate into slowed concession sales, which generate money to pay the bills and employee wages. He said the money from ticket sales pays only for the cost of the films.
"We're already hurt, and any increase would be an obstacle we can't afford right now," he said.
Boccieri, of New Middletown, D-57th, said he's concerned about the effects the proposed increases will have on business owners like Caszett.
"I believe government should work within its limits, like working people do," he said.
Deficit projected
Taft's plan would raise about $2.3 billion to help deal with the state's projected deficit for the next two years. The state's 5 per cent sales tax would be extended to such items as newspapers, magazines, professional entertainment and sporting events, nightclub cover charges, concerts, amusement parks, parking, tanning, tattooing, cable TV, real estate deals and services, dry cleaning and laundry services.
Boccieri said Taft chose to target entertainment venues and services as a way of "spreading out the pain" to industries not typically affected by a sales tax.
However, Carano, of Austintown, D-65th, said the governor's proposal doesn't spread; it clumps. "If you look at every one of the taxes, it's a consumer tax," he said.
Car dealers
Diane Sauer, president of the Auto Dealers Association of Eastern Ohio, noted that the taxes will hit the areas that have been bright spots in a particularly dull economy. Car sales and real estate have been relatively strong, but Sauer said she's worried that an increase in the cost of a car title and diminished amount of credit that goes toward a new car with the trade of an old one will hurt car sales.
Car titles cost $5 and will go up to $20 under Taft's proposal. She said this means it will cost both the dealer and the customer more to buy a used car because the cost will include transferring the title from the original owner to the dealer to the new owner.

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