California’s X-Rated Tax Policy

Negotiations over the state budget which (surprise surprise) is two weeks late are at an impasse because lawmakers who advocate increased spending and those who support a very modest reduction in the rate of spending growth are still $2 billion apart.

Out of a budget that will exceed $140 billion this may not seem like much. But even the lesser spending plan would leave us with an ongoing structural deficit that results in state government spending more than it takes in. Moreover making even a slight cut in the rate of spending growth is a Herculean task because as government programs are expanded each year through deficit spending so are the number of outstretched hands demanding a check from taxpayers in subsequent years.

Assemblyman Charles Calderon a Whittier Democrat has an idea to raise revenue which might prove to be a $100 million boon to those who want to spend more. Caldron’s AB 1551 would impose a new 8 percent tax on items sold by adult businesses and on X-rated pay-per-view rentals. Caldron says his legislation is not attacking pornography; he is only trying to ease its impact on neighborhoods.

This bill is emblematic of the obscene lengths some legislators will go to get their hands on more money.

While few would argue against protecting residential neighborhoods from seedy adult businesses one has to ask whether zoning restrictions have already been proven to be a better solution. Further given this more effective method of dealing with adult businesses is Calderon’s proposal not just another transparent effort to take advantage of a legitimate public concern for the sole purpose of raising revenue without actually doing anything about the stated problem.

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore a Republican from Irvine condemned Calderon’s bill as an attempt to appeal to social conservatives as a way to get more cash to spend for his Calderon’s special interests groups. DeVore accurately labeled the proposal as "political theater."

Other responsible lawmakers who oppose tax increases have blasted AB 1551 as a partisan effort to tar opponents as supporters of pornography.

Ironically if this bill becomes law lawmakers who would enjoy the delicious privilege of spending the new revenue could actually end up rooting for a proliferation of X-rated businesses. (Much like the "clean air" and health groups are dependent on tobacco taxes).

For most Californians the real pornography is the constant and ongoing political theater performed by the tax-and-spend lawmakers who will go to any lengths to build their constituency through the process of doling out government money. Boosting the number of dependent voters is a good way for an aspiring lawmaker to guarantee reelection. When the majority of the members of the Legislature take this approach to political success they get the votes and the taxpayers get the bill.

Taxpayers will continue to be the victims of lawmakers’ lewd conduct until a strict limit is put on the growth of spending and our existing tax policy — a tax policy that would make Attila the Hun proud — is replaced by one that promotes rather than retards economic growth. As things are now the winners in our high tax state are the free-spending politicians and the providers of government services — California public employees are the highest paid in the nation — and the perpetual losers are the taxpayers who more and more are wondering if there are not greater freedoms and opportunities in other states.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.