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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 7, 2004 7:40 PM. The previous post in this blog was In our prayers. The next post in this blog is Lefty shoppers alert. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Randy's right

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard is proposing that cell phone service, like regular phone service, be subject to the city telecommunications excise tax. I don't know how you define "telecommunications," but to me, of course it should include cell phones. Trouble is, the city tax is so old that the operative ordinance never heard of a cell phone, except maybe in the Dick Tracy comic strip.

You would think an amendment of the tax provision would be uncontroversial, but guess again. The money-grubbing weasels at the cell phone companies are acting like the city is physically torturing them. They've got lawyers and are ready to sue to block the extension of the tax. How dare the city call cell phones "telecommunications"!

I'm ready to pay the tax on my cell phone bill. In an era when many people aren't using conventional land phones at all, it's eminently fair of the city to get its pound of flesh out of both classes of users.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman revived from his coma briefly last week and stated his opposition to the "new tax." Dan's all for big-ticket projects like the Big Pipe and his favorite, burying the city's reservoirs. But he comes up pretty short on ideas for paying the bills. Why do I think he'll be getting some needed cash from the cell companies when he runs for re-election?

Comments (10)

If the city council wants more money, those folks should increase the rate of it's current sources. That method attracts less attention than forcing me to pay through new avenues.

And folks hate this tax for the same reason they don't want the internet taxed: the expectation was set for it to be tax-free. And folks don't want that to change.

Oregon has a program for reducing the costs of phone service to the poor. The discount is, get this, pegged to the cost for taxes that lawmakers previously piled on to the service. Phone service, at least for land lines, can be had for under 10 bucks a month.

I do wonder whether the state would add a provision to get an exception to the payment of Randy’s tax for the poor folks who want cell phone service? Again, I suppose, the poor will largely have no idea about the tax break and will just pay Randy’s tax with their credit cards and then pay 15 to 20 percent interest on the money delivered to the city.

Don’t concede to the reasonableness to you personally. Analyze it from the perspective of a single mom with kids who is trying to work full time and pay for child care and health care and stay connected when traveling on our increasingly dangerous roads. Randy’s tax would directly mean one less trip, monthly, to the movies or to a favorite fast food joint.

Everybody who has a cell phone must be rich, otherwise they would not have such a luxury item. Ha ha ha. Maybe the poor would just skip on a pack of smokes to pay the city leaders more. (Yeah, that would be good reasoning. It is for their own good to be even poorer.) Communications is an inherently compulsive thing for us humans, why not call Randy’s tax a sin tax, for talking too much. (Are blogs next on the list?)

You guys are right. Let's not tax anything; it's too compulsive. Let's repeal all the taxes, get some guns and canned food, and live in caves.

I would tax capital gains as regular income if they were derived from Greenspan induced increases in the money supply rather than through capitalist initiative. We could go one step further and not wait until the assets were traded but rely on annual fair market value determinations. If an asset is good enough for use as collateral, while postponing recognition of the asset appreciation through a sale (as with home equity loans and such), then this sounds both equitable and substantial enough to eliminate the need for the petty taxes on the poor who, by definition, do not have assets.

My general prism is equitability issues, and opposition to false capitalists.

Of course I am a hermit so the cave option doesn't sound so bad.

What is the City going to provide us in exchange for the cell phone tax?

Nothing related to the use of my cell phone. At least the gas tax pays for road construction.

Let's just call this what it is, a money grab by the same folks who waste it continually.

Why stop with cell phones? How about we tax DVD rentals, video game sales and pet food while we're at it.

Those aren't necessities either (less so).

In the interest of keeping our landline phone bill to a minimum, we dropped long distance and do not subscribe to any of the "add on" features (e.g., call waiting, caller ID, etc.). I think the actual "phone bill" portion of our phone bill is maybe $12.

Our taxes on this $12 run somewhere just North of $11. (taxes = taxes, so-called "access fees", "universal access fees", "user fees", etc. etc.). That's pretty close to a 100% tax rate... I personally find this outrageous.

Sorry if I'm not jumping for joy at the prospect of the city doing the same thing to my cell phone bill.

The problem I have with this scheme is that it is endemic of city hall's "revenue neutral" posture on everything. They always look at revenue shortages and decide they have to make them up elsewhere. They never look at the overall situation and try to come up with incentives or stimuli which will increase overall commerce and tax revenue resultantly. There are about forty thousand businesses located in the city limits which pay the business income tax. They could lower the tax rate, increase that figure to say, fifty or sixty thousand, end up with more overall revenue and happier businesses. It's a fundamental difference between public and private sector thinking. Personally, I think taxing the "ether" is going a little too far.

No, Randy's left.

It's the federal excise tax that kills me. Hello? War tax buddy, should have expired 3 times in the last 20 years. But damned if we don't keep getting ourselves into another war somehow.

I think it's time for a complete overhaul of the state tax system. However, I don't think many in Salem actually have the guts to do it.
Maybe we should send Randy to Salem?


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