L.A. Times Covers Calif. Bid to Tax Porn

Tom Hymes
SACRAMENTO — A May 8 Los Angeles Times article titled "California tax proposals target beer-loving, pornography-watching yacht owners," suggests that because of the state's expected $20 billion budget deficit several normally far fetched California tax proposals introduced this year actually have a chance of being passed by a divided legislature.

One proposed new law of special interest to the adult entertainment industry is AB 2914, sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Montebello), which would add "a 25% tax on sex toys, strip shows, pornographic magazines and videos and anything else sold in an 'adult entertainment venue.'"

In the article, Times staff writer Evan Halper says Democratic lawmakers believe that in the current fiscal environment, this and other proposals that would otherwise never gain momentum could very well find their way into existence due to unprecedented pressure to find new money or face cutting essential state funding.

"Despite tough odds of overcoming an oath signed by their Republican colleagues to stop any tax hikes, Democratic lawmakers seem confident that their ideas will carry the day," Halper writes. "They predict the public won't stand for painful cuts to schools and healthcare to close a shortfall the governor now pegs as high as $20 billion, and say anti-tax forces will ultimately have to accept that more revenue is needed to bring the state into the black."

As the article headline suggests, porn is not the only commodity being singled out for added assessment. "Assemblyman Jim Beall (D-San Jose)... hopes to see a $1.80 tax added to the price of every six-pack of beer sold in the state."

iTunes downloads are also being targeted, by the very same Calderon who threatens to tax adult companies. His proposal (AB 1956) would hike a tune from 99 cents to about $1.07.

About the adult entertainment industry, Halper quotes some very tough language from Calderon: "This is a major industry that is putting a disproportionate burden on state services," he said. "Drugs are heavily used. The actors have a short life span. Some leave the industry drug-addicted with no skills. They wind up availing themselves of Medi-Cal and other state programs."

Despite the extreme claims, Halper writes that Calderon "is perplexed that he hasn't been able to get more traction..." for the porn tax bill, suggesting that the legislator is resigned to its eventual defeat, possibly not even making it out of the Revenue and Taxation Committee, which he chairs. (AB 2914 is Calderon's third attempt to levy an additional tax on the adult entertainment industry in California.)

Other proposed California taxes include 25 cents on every plastic carryout bag from stores, new fees for drivers of luxury vehicles that get less than 15 miles per gallon, eliminating the mortgage deduction for vacation homes valued at more than $1 million, closing a sales tax loophole on luxury yachts and also another loophole that allows felons to claim tax breaks on criminal business operations.

Calderon points to one specific consequence of not passing at least some of the bills.

"If we don't do some of these things, we are going to have to cut nearly $5 billion out of schools," he warns.

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