Anti-Tax Lawmakers Face Porn Tax Dilemma

Anti-Tax Lawmakers Face Porn Tax Dilemma
Kat Khan
TOPEKA, Kan. — After a legislative committee agreed earlier this month to draft a bill that would impose a 10 percent tax on products and services sold by sexually-oriented businesses in Kansas, some conservative legislators have found themselves in a dilemma.

Thirty-one of the state’s 165 lawmakers have pledged in writing not to raise taxes, despite reports that the tax could raise $1.5 million annually. The money collected would be used to prosecute and treat sex offenders, according to legislators.

But the situation is a Catch-22 for conservative legislators who say they’d like to combat adult entertainment and support the porn tax but are committed to keeping taxes at a minimum. Some lawmakers, such as Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe, are also considering cutting taxes elsewhere in order to vote in favor of the proposed tax. O’Connor added that she could not support a stand-alone tax increase.

Kansas Taxpayers Network Executive Director Karl Peterjohn said that replacing a tax cut with the new tax might be acceptable, if the bill is carefully drafted.

Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, said he would favor the proposed tax if it were tied to other proposals that would result in an overall tax decrease.

The measure will face final approval by the Kansas Legislature in January.

If passed, the porn tax would be all-inclusive, including all strip clubs, escort services and adult video stores. Lawmakers are also considering whether the tax will apply to mainstream video stores that contain an “adult section.”

Adult businesses in the state also have made clear they will challenge the new tax in court if it passes, forcing Kansas to show a compelling reason to tax adult businesses differently than others. First Amendment groups such as the Adult Freedom Foundation are also vehemently opposed to any such tax.

“The AFF urges you and your committee to ignore the bogus anti-pornography information presented to your body and reject the propose tax,” Paul Cambria, AFF’s general counsel, wrote in a letter to key Kansas legislators earlier this month.

The proposed porn tax follows the introduction of the Internet Safety and Child Protection Act of 2005 in July by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, which would impose a 25 percent excise tax on all national adult transactions. Lincoln’s support of the bill is tied to a study conducted by advocacy group Third Way, which exposes statistics claiming children between the ages of 12-17 are the largest viewers of Internet pornography. The study also shows that children are first exposed to online pornography at an average age of 11 years.

If passed, the legislation would force a 25 percent excise tax on all online adult transactions and require online adult websites to use software to verify the age of users attempting to access their websites. The bill is currently under review.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah and Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J also introduced companion legislation in July in the House of Representatives.