California Golf Tax Not Included in State Budget

California golfers can breathe a sigh of relief now that lawmakers dropped from the state budget a sales tax on greens fees, practice balls, cart rentals, lessons and private-club membership fees and monthly dues. But the issue has not disappeared.

A commission appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders is still working on overhauling the tax structure. Their recommendations are expected to be released April 15. The group's goal is to reduce dependence on volatile personal income taxes, possibly by applying sales taxes to such "services" as golf.

"It's an achievement to have gotten out of the first round, but that's all it is," said Bob Bouchier, executive director of the California Alliance for Golf, an industry group set up to fight the 8 to 10 percent sales tax. "If they think we were organized then, wait until they see how we'll be organized when," he warned.

Replacing sales tax on services such as golf in the final budget is a different mix of revenues, such as a surtax on personal income and an increase in vehicle licensing fees. It's uncertain if the commission will recommend an expansion of the sales tax to golf, said H.D. Palmer, a Department of Finance spokesman.

Bouchier is aware that once something that hasn't been taxed before is introduced, it doesn't go away. Golf appeared to be singled out among participatory sports in the initial attempt.

"When there are revenue pressures, there's no end to people's imagination," Bouchier said. "The first version was not well thought through. We don't know what form it will take and how it will be presented the next time around."

Bouchier expressed gratitude in a letter to supporters. In part, the letter reads:

"Thank you to the thousands of you who signed up for the coalition, wrote letters, made phone calls, participated in media activities and enthusiastically supported the efforts of the California Alliance for Golf (CAG) in the effort to stop the tax.

"The golf tax was a near certainty at one point during the budget discussion; its elimination demonstrates the power the golf industry and individual golfers can wield if we work together to make sure we're treated fairly and protect our great game.

"While this win is significant, it is important that we remain informed, active and vigilant. Our state's budget issues are not over, and now that the idea of a golf tax has been introduced, it is likely a lawmaker or the state's tax commission will raise the issue again someday soon.

"In addition to taxes on golf, there are other important issues like water supply, which could greatly impact golf. CAG will need your support as these and other issues arise.

"It's more important than ever to continue to visit to stay updated on policies and regulations that could affect golf. Again, thank you for your dedication to golf and your continued support."