City tax repeal doubtful, but stay tuned
Most on council undecided on stock exemption

Wednesday, May 20, 1998

BY LISA DONOVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The moment of truth may come today for some Cincinnati City council members who have been waffling on whether to repeal the local tax on stock options.

The proposed tax exemption on stock options, a form of compensation largely reserved for corporate executives, is expected to be considered by the full council during today's weekly meeting.

But two months after the measure was introduced they remain one vote shy of a majority to pass the measure.

Poised to support the measure today are Mayor Roxanne Qualls and council members Phil Heimlich, Jeanette Cissell and Charles Winburn. Councilman Tyrone Yates has opposed it; the rest of council has been ambiguous.

Councilman Todd Portune -- who along with Mrs. Cissell proposed the tax exemption -- now wants to hold off on a vote until the city finds a formula to repair Cincinnati's public school buildings.

Asked how he'll vote today, Mr. Portune repeated his response to the same question posed last week: "We'll see if it comes to the floor."

Hours earlier during council's finance committee meeting, Councilman Dwight Tillery angrily denounced a colleague whom he did not name for tying this issue to school funding.

School funding an issue

"We can make this decision today and we can make the decision about the schools," said Mr. Tillery, finance committee chairman. Ultimately, Mr. Tillery and Councilwoman Minette Cooper did not make a decision -- abstaining from the committee's vote. Mrs. Cooper said she wanted to consider the testimony of an opponent to the tax exemption; Mr. Tillery said he had "some people" he needed to talk with before deciding.

Councilman Tyrone Yates, also a member of the committee, was not present for the vote.

Many haven't decided

In addition to Mr. Portune, Mr. Tillery and Mrs. Cooper, Councilwoman Bobbie Sterne also has not made a decision on the issue, though she and Councilman Yates initially voted against the measure.

Councilman Yates said he will vote against repealing the tax, but has said he would be willing to hold off on a vote to see the economic impact on the city. Currently, officials have no formula to determine revenue losses if the 2.1 percent earnings tax, levied against those who work and live in the city, is repealed.

Representatives of big business have said the tax exemption is a measure that will maintain and lure the big corporations that offer stock options, which are essentially the right to buy shares at a discount from their fair market value. But local labor has deemed the proposed tax repeal as nothing more than corporate welfare.



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