Senator Says Companies Shouldn�t Pay If Program Is Not Enforced
TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner today announced that she will introduce legislation to repeal the tax cable companies have been paying into a program that was set up to provide financial assistance to senior citizens and customers with disabilities, but was never actually used.
Created in 2006 as part of the broad cable television reform law that opened up the state�s market to greater competition among providers, the CATV Universal Access Fund has collected one-half of 1 percent tax of cable company revenues and was designed to benefit residents enrolled in the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled program.
Since its creation, cable companies have paid $9.2 million into the fund � but since rules for disbursing assistance had never been written, none was ever given. In the current fiscal year, which began last July 1, the governor diverted the fund’s balance to help shore up his state budget.
“This fund was created to help low-income residents pay their cable bills, not to be a piggy bank for the administration,” said Turner (D-Mercer). “It’s unfair to continue to expect anyone to pay a tax if the funds collected are not being used for their intended purpose, even cable companies.”
According to reports, the tax is currently generating approximately $3.5 million per year and continues to be collected.
“If the money won’t go to low-income residents, then we need to stop collecting the tax,” said Turner. “And if cable companies can use those newfound savings to reduce bills even a little for all their cable customers, then it would be well worth it.”
Turner said she hopes to be able to formally introduce the legislation when the Senate convenes on Monday, February 14.