Cincinnati 'Icon Tax': How does new sales tax proposal differ from stadium sales tax of 1996?

Deadline for putting measure on ballot is Aug. 6

CINCINNATI – If you've lived in Greater Cincinnati for more than a handful of years, chances are that when you hear the words "Hamilton County sales tax," you think "stadium."

The half-cent sales tax increase approved by Hamilton County voters to build new homes for the Bengals and Reds has been a source of controversy since before it was passed in 1996.

Now influential business and community leaders want Hamilton County commissioners to put a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot – this time to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations and repairs at Union Terminal and Music Hall.

County commissioners have until Aug. 6 to decide.

Members of the Cultural Facilities Task Force pushing for the tax increase are quick to point out differences between their plan and the stadium sales tax. The half-cent stadium sales tax hasn't generated as much money as its supporters predicted, which has created ongoing financial headaches for the county.

"In all the focus groups and community interaction we had done, we knew one of the things we're going to have to explain over and over is the difference between what we've done here and the stadia tax," said Bob McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble who was chairman of the task force.

Hamilton County commissioners will hold two public hearings on the proposed icon tax:

• The first will start at 6:30 p.m. July 23 at Sharonville Convention Center.

• The second will start at 11 a.m. July 28 at the County Administration Building downtown.

Insiders can read more about how the "icon tax" plan compares to the stadium sales that funded construction of Paul Brown Stadium for the Cincinnati Bengals and Great American Ball Park for the Cincinnati Reds.

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