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Wash. State Lawmaker Seeks 25% Porn Tax

Wash. State Lawmaker Seeks 25% Porn Tax
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Dec 27, 2005 2:30 PM PST    Text size: 
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Wash., says he wants higher taxes imposed on sales of pornographic products. The money raised would be used to treat sex offenders and help their victims.

Pearson said he will propose a 25 percent tax on "adult entertainment" items in lieu of state and local sales taxes now levied by retailers. He said various studies have shown that as the sales of adult-themed books, magazines, CDs and videos have climbed, incidents of sexual offenses by adults against children also have increased.

"I believe there is a connection between hardcore pornography and deviant behavior of sex offenders," Pearson said.

The tax would funnel revenues into programs aimed at treating offenders, compensating crime victims and educating teachers on dealing with juvenile sex offenders in a school environment. Potential revenue figures have yet to be calculated.

Pearson said he will introduce the bill on Jan. 9, when the Legislature begins its session, but passing it through the House likely will not be easy. Pearson may face dissent from within his own party, as well as Democratic colleagues who hold the majority in the House.

Additionally, various 1st Amendment groups are set to challenge the proposed tax, including the Free Speech Coalition, who argue that pornography is protected under the 1st Amendment and singling it out for special taxation would be unconstitutional.

"It would be irresponsible not to challenge it," FSC Communications Director Tom Hymes said.

Pearson's proposal would mirror an amendment to the 1989 state budget passed by lawmakers, which Gov. Booth Gardner vetoed in the final version of the budget. That amendment called for a 25 percent tax on the retail sale or use of adult entertainment materials and services "depicting sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of the sexual stimulation of the viewer." That law directed any tax revenue into the state's crime victims' compensation fund.

Similar taxes also recently have been proposed in other states. In 2004, Utah imposed a 10 percent tax on admission fees, sales, food and drinks at sexually oriented businesses, but a legal challenge put the fee on hold and the case is pending. Additionally, in Kansas, a proposal for a 10 percent excise tax on adult entertainment materials and services also may be introduced in January. The money raised would be directed back into school budgets.

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