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Video rentals could be hit with additional tax

February 21, 1997

By FRANCA LEWIS

Staff Writer

Video store owners don't like a Maryland state legislative measure that would permit local governments to double the tax on rentals of video tapes and game cartridges.

"It could close me down," said Ken Trenary of Family Video in Williamsport.

The state is considering an amusement tax of up to 5 percent. Maryland already charges a 5 percent sales tax.

If passed into law, the measure would give local government the option of adopting the additional tax.

Trenary said an extra tax could be devastating to his store, which is located near the state's border. Close to 40 percent of his business comes from West Virginia, so any additional tax would likely keep customers away, he said.

"It shocks me that Maryland is considering a new tax," Trenary said. "It's nothing more than greed."

Video rentals are one of the last forms of affordable family entertainment, he said.

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"I'd like to see these lawmakers come in here and talk to my customers," Trenary said.

Trenary said he sent an anti-tax petition to Annapolis earlier this week signed by more than 460 people. The signatures were collected in less than a week, he said.

"I know our customers were very upset about the state taking this route," said Linda Miller of Video Magic in Hagerstown. She didn't know the exact number of signatures collected on a petition from her store but said hundreds of people signed it.

Each county or municipality would need to adopt the extra tax individually before it could be imposed, said Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington.

"It's an additional tool for local government to raise money," said McKee, a member of the Ways and Means Committee that drafted the bill.

McKee said he believed the bill stands a good chance of passing. "To a degree, it's a fairness issue. There are extra amusement taxes charged for sporting events, movies and other forms of entertainment," he said.

The tax initiative came at the request of the Maryland Municipal League, which represents cities and small towns across the state, McKee said.

MML's Washington County chapter president Charles "Skip'' Kauffman Jr. of Boonsboro said some municipalities in larger counties sought the measure because they need extra money.

"For myself, I don't think it's going to happen in Boonsboro," said Kauffman, also mayor of the town in southern Washington County.

In fiscal year 1996, Washington County collected $89,109 in admissions and amusement taxes associated with movie theaters, according to the Maryland Comptroller's office.

A total of $550,537 was collected countywide in total amusement and admissions taxes in all categories, the office said.

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