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Calif. cell-phone tax to hit Nov. ballot

WASHINGTON-The group seeking improvements to California emergency services with funds from a new 3-percent tax on cell-phone bills said it collected enough signatures to place the initiative on this November’s ballot.

The Coalition to Preserve Emergency Care will submit the nearly 1 million signatures-about twice the number required to qualify for ballot inclusion-to the California secretary of state for verification.

The organization, backed by hospitals and doctors, said new taxes on wireless and wireline phone services-residential and business-would raise $550 million annually for emergency room care, first responder training and upgrades to 911 phone service.

SBC Communications Inc., 60 percent owner of Cingular Wireless L.L.C., is leading an effort to defeat the measure. SBC already has contributed $5 million to Californians to Stop the Phone Tax.

AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile USA Inc. each contributed $20,000 to the anti-phone tax campaign. Last year, Sprint Corp. and its affiliates, including Sprint PCS, donated $7,500 to the cause.


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