As state tobacco taxes dry up (and they will dwindle even more after SCHIP’s federal taxes take effect), governments are getting creative to raise new revenue. They’re taking on the one group who might be an even easier target than smokers: consumers of pornography and other sex products:
In Washington state, a half-dozen cash-strapped legislators recently endorsed a huge sales tax increase on explicit movies, magazines and other sex-themed products.
New York officials recently acknowledged that Gov. David Paterson’s proposed “iPod tax” on Internet downloads also would apply to online porn purchases, along with tamer diversions such as pop music and computer software.
And in Texas, state lawyers are fighting to preserve the “pole tax,” a $5 cover charge on strip clubs that’s being challenged by business owners.
In the past five years, lawmakers from Tennessee to Kansas to California have pitched special taxes on porn, escort services, exotic dance clubs and other adult businesses. A U.S. senator even toyed with the idea of an Internet porn tax on the federal level.
Florida is getting in on the act too. Fortunately many of these proposals will be blocked by First Amendment challenges, but that won’t stop lawmakers from trying.
In sort of related news, a recent study finds that conservative states are the biggest consumers of (paid) online pornography.