Expanding Ohio’s sales tax might take some of the fun out of going to concerts, football games and amusement parks.
Gov. John Kasich wants to cut the state’s overall sales-tax rate while also putting the lower 5 percent sales tax on a long list of new items that include circuses, arcade games and carnival rides.
Admission to fairs, museums, and theme parks would fall under Ohio’s sales tax for the first time too. So would tickets to pro, college and high-school games.
The governor is proposing sweeping changes in the way Ohio taxes businesses and individuals in his two-year budget that still must be approved by lawmakers. Kasich’s plan includes cutting the income tax rate by 20 percent over three years and the small business tax by 50 percent.
The reductions add up to $1.4 billion in tax cuts over three years.
At the same time, his proposal tacks on Ohio’s sales tax to attorney fees, cable TV and pet grooming as well as entertainment options.
“By broadening this tax, by broadening it, we’re actually bringing greater fairness to the system,” Kasich said last week.
Adding the sales tax on arts, entertainment, and recreation alone is projected to bring in $85 million to the state government over the coming two years.
It’s also likely to add to the cost of seeing a ballgame or a play.
Some entertainment businesses and sports teams will pass the costs onto ticket buyers and customers while others are likely to absorb the costs, fearing that a price increase will drive away business.
“There has to be a decrease somewhere, either in my profits or customers,” said Eric Bates, president of Bates Brothers Amusements Co. He worries that some cash-strapped fairs won’t survive if they’re forced to give up 5 percent of their gate fees to the government.
Bowling-alley owner Marty Teifke agreed that it would hurt to pay a tax on lane rentals.
“It’s not easy to raise prices, and the economy is not the best around here” said Teifke, who runs Timbers Bowling in Maumee near Toledo.
Most entertainment businesses and groups that would be affected by a wider sales tax are still trying to figure out what the impact might be and how they’ll respond, including Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., owners of Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky and Kings Island near Cincinnati.
Both parks have fought against past attempts by local governments that have tried to tax tickets and parking.
The addition of a 5 percent state sales tax on admissions would amount to $2.75 on the price of a $54.99 Cedar Point ticket at the gate.
A $22 Cincinnati Reds ticket in the upper deck ticket would generate $1.10 for the state.
Close to 70 cities and villages in Ohio already have some sort of admission tax with most coming in at 3 percent. Cleveland’s is at 8 percent.
Tickets for high school sports wouldn’t be exempt from the governor’s proposal.
Jim Stoyle, athletic director at Centerburg High School north of Columbus, said he would want the cost of admission to go up. “That’s the one thing I hate in sports today,” he said.
Game tickets at the school now are $6 for adults and $4 for students. He’s concerned that families would be stretched thin if the price goes up, especially for those with several children playing, and that the teams would suffer as well.
“Most of our high school athletic programs survive on ticket gate sales,” Stoyle said.
Community theater groups would face the same decisions.
“There wouldn’t be much choice but to pass along a sales tax increase to the customers,” said Tom Neff, board president of the Chagrin Valley Little Theater outside Cleveland. “People would understand it’s part of what you would have to do. I don’t think there’s any way around it.”
Associated Press writer Ann Sanner in Columbus contributed to this report.