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New monthly fee takes effect for phone lines

By: Stacey Forster, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Madison — Starting Tuesday, all telephone lines will be subject to a new 75-cent monthly fee that was part of the budget passed by lawmakers this summer.

The fee is expected to generate $107 million over two years, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. It is supposed to help local governments pay for police, fire and 911 emergency services.

Telephone subscribers will pay the fee to their providers, who will pass on the payments to the state.

The fee increase applies to all voice communications lines, including wireless and fax lines, according to the Public Service Commission, which will administer the fee on telephone numbers.

It also applies to the first 10 phone connections owned by a customer; any additional lines beyond the first 10 will be subject to a 0.075-cent fee. For example, a customer with 30 lines will pay $9 - $7.50 for the first 10 lines and $1.50 for the other 20.

The budget provision also includes a 38-cent fee on retail transactions for prepaid wireless telephone plans, such as the sale of a wireless handset activated for use with a prepaid wireless plan or the sale of additional prepaid minutes or dollars for an existing account.

The fees were originally intended to go toward upgrading 911 emergency call centers.

But when it became clear that funding for local police and fire services might be cut to close the state deficit, lawmakers opted to direct the fees to protecting those services, said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee.

"It enabled us not to have those cuts in shared revenue," Pocan said.

Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Democrats who control the Legislature were being disingenuous.

"If you want to raise a tax and put something in place . . . don't hide behind police and fire," Fitzgerald said.


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