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It isn't as big as once proposed, but the Utah Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would give cable TV customers a small tax break maybe $1 to $1.30 a month and put cable and satellite subscribers on closer footing.
The Senate voted 20-8 to pass SB112 by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, and sent it to the House.
He says the bill would help solve unfairness resulting from Congress exempting satellite companies from paying local franchise fees. Cable companies are not exempt, meaning cable subscribers pay an additional tax of about $3 or $4 a month to their city or town.
Niederhauser earlier wanted to provide a rebate that would be passed onto cable customers to completely offset the tax but it would have cost the state $6.7 million a year to do so without taking the money from local governments. The Senate last week opposed the bill in an earlier vote as too expensive.
Niederhauser resurrected it on Wednesday, but cut the proposed rebate by about a third to $1.99 million.
"This is purely a tax parity issue," Niederhauser said. "We're incrementally getting to a point where there is equal taxation if you choose satellite or if you choose cable. This issue will continue in years to come. We are just going to take a bite at a time."
But Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, complained that the bill uses state money to try to fix a problem that the federal government created. "It's ringing the dinner bell," he said, for any group in any industry that thinks competitors have an unfair advantage because of taxes to come to the state for help.
Comcast, the state's largest cable company, contributed nearly $60,000 to legislators' campaign accounts last year. The Utah Cable Telecommunications Association gave another $15,500 to lawmakers.