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Pittsburgh City Council gives tentative OK to billboard tax

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Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 5:28 p.m.

Pittsburgh's largest outdoor advertising company promised to sue the city on Monday over council's preliminary approval of a 10 percent excise tax on billboards.

Downtown attorney Jonathan Kamin said that Lamar Advertising believes billboards are protected under the First Amendment and he intends to sue in federal court if the bill gains final approval next week.

“They have completely singled out this media, and they're using their council seats as a bully pulpit to persecute us,” Kamin said.

Council approved the bill 7-2. Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and Councilman Bruce Kraus abstained, saying they wanted to discuss it with the city Law Department before voting. Advertising companies would pay 10 percent of revenue received on billboards. Council believes the tax would generate up to $4 million annually. The money would be directed to the general fund for daily operating expenses, but council hopes to earmark it to buy police cars.

Last month, Lamar lashed out against the tax by erecting billboards critical of Council President Darlene Harris and Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, the bill's sponsors.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or

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