Alabama is in trouble. The state has until October 1st to solve a $200M overspending crisis or face a government shutdown. Their answer? A 40% tax on all gross receipts involving pornography. The plan is to milk the residents for every penny the state can get from indulgence in porn. The whack-it tax is sure to get a rise of of Gov. Robert Bentley’s constituency as he promised not to hike up taxes.
In a creative move to fix a $200M overspending issue, the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee is putting forth a new tax. If passed, there will be a 40% tax on gross receipts from sales, rentals, admissions to theaters and all other revenue-generators (magazines, videos and online rentals) involving pornography. Yep, to get the state out of a sticky situation, the Alabama legislature proposes whack-it tax.
Alabama’s legislature is in its second special legislative session as it tries in vain to pass a decent budget. Not only are they not close, they’re not even breathing hard. Apparently, Governor Robert Bentley is splitting hairs on the issue of taxes as a solution. His campaign promise breaking idea is a $500M tax increase. This boner of a plan is sure to get a rise out of Bentley’s constituency as he campaigned on a commitment to oppose tax hikes. Increases… Hikes… Tomato/tomahto, really.
State lawmakers have rejected Bentley’s ideas on raising cigarette taxes and doing away with state FICA deductions. However, they’re running out of time to find an acceptable solution. If the issue isn’t resolved by October 1st, the Alabama government will close quicker than a Sears catalog when your mom walks into your bedroom unannounced.
The reasoning behind the whack-it tax? “Any entertainment product that’s adult in nature, that you have to be over 18 to purchase, would have an excise tax like cigarettes and tobacco do,” according to Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestava Hills). Interesting thought, but 40%? I think Jack is off the mark.
Tobacco sales (and the resulting tax revenue) are down, lower than in previous years. While the governor’s cigarette tax fantasy could help offset the public health costs spewed all over taxpayers, no one really knows where the whack-it tax revenue would go. Unless the state decides to pump it into Planned Parenthood, what other health-related program would benefit?
Of course, this massive porn tax pops open a big ol’ drippy can of worms in terms of how to tax certain products. One such example is the (somehow famous, don’t ask me how) Fifty Shades of Grey. The book could be slapped with the 40% tax for its one-handed reading potential, but the movie is rated “R” meaning that it would be whack-it tax-free. Hardly fair, eh?
What about Internet purchases? Does this mean that Jane Q. Public’s “personal massager” from Amazon is going to have a 40% tax plugged into the price? How will Medicare deal with this new tax? If Jane’s FWB sometimes needs some help rising to the task, will Medicare be OK with Alabama sucking 40% of the price of his prescribed pump as a tax? That may put the federal government between a rock and sorta hard place.
There’s also the issue of class and income inequality. Those whose communities have high-speed Internet will certainly find a way to reach around the whack-it tax by finding free porn. Wealthier individuals may just put out the extra money to get theirs. However, this unfair tax will have the deepest impact on rural and poorer communities. Those residents will be stuck (usually to the floor) trying to find extra cash to finance their porn shop fiddling.
Speaking of businesses, what about the impact on these bookstores? In one hand, there’s the possibility of huge injections of revenue into the states pocket. In the other hand, there’s a chance that interstate truckers will elect to carry their loads right on by these roadside attractions, thus costing these entrepreneurial enticers their incomes.
So far, the whack-it tax is just a twinkle in the legislature’s eye, having only passed at the Committee level. However, Gov. Bentley has a way of applying just the right pressure at just the right time to get his way. In April, he put a tight squeeze on the legislature by threatening to bust out prisoners if the legislature didn’t give him a happy ending to his proposed tax increases.
The legislature held out for as long as it could, but Bentley had the stronger hand. He told them, “You may not care about prisoners… but when you have them in your basement, you’re going to care.” Lawmakers let it go and the prisoners were denied their release.
Apparently, the idea of having all that pent-up energy under them didn’t appeal to the legislators (not that they would admit it if it did). In the end, Bentley got the last shot and the legislature got the cookies as consolation. Bentley reportedly had a satisfied grin on his face when the tax hikes were approved.
The whack-it tax will now take the walk of shame to the full Alabama House for a floor vote. I hope the carpet is Scotchgarded.