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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 10, 2004 5:04 PM. The previous post in this blog was Try the chowdah. The next post in this blog is Scheduled outage. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, December 10, 2004

The tax you have proposed is no longer in service

The proposed Portland city tax on cell phone service, and on land phone services such as call waiting that currently aren't locally taxed, is dead -- at least for now. Commissioner Randy Leonard, who was spearheading the plan to impose the tax, has backed down, given that he can't get two of his four current colleagues to go along with him. I haven't kept track of the complete head count, but I know that outgoing Mayor Katz refused to give her support to the plan, which reportedly ticked Fireman Randy off pretty good, since the Lady in the Tiger Suit had egged him on to undertake the whole issue to begin with. The Big Pipe was also a nay, and I assume the Scone was on the negatory as well.

So what does this mean?

First, it's a nice little victory for Lars Larson and all the nattering nabobs of the wignut airwaves, who have been shrieking their opposition to the new tax as if it were the plague. For those who think tax is spelled "b-a-d," it's a shining moment.

Second, it means that people who use land phones will continue to pay city taxes on those phones, while those who use cell phones won't. Is that fair? Don't tell me it's because the land phones use telephone poles in the public right of way. Cell phone signals pass through our airspace -- indeed, right through our bodies -- and their safety has never been conclusively proven. Plus, cell phones cause traffic accidents, and the emergency responses to those suck up public dollars. There's no reason to tax the two phones differently. If anything, cell phone users should have to pay more.

Third, given the fiscal abyss in which the city says it finds itself, the issue is sure to resurface after the new council members, Grampy and Vero, show up in a few weeks. Portland and Oregon are staring down the barrels of some vicious revenue shortfalls, and we'll be down to the last year of the local income tax levy to boot, and so I suspect that the cell phone tax will look like the least of several evils at some point soon.

In the meantime, though, there's $6 million a year in new revenue that the city won't be getting. That means we'll have to lop off some unnecessary programs to live within our existing means.

Yoo hoo! City Council! Here's $1.3 million a year you can start with.

Comments (4)

You should have linked to Phil Stanford's article in today's Tribune. Because he makes an excellent point about the potential abuse of the Clean Money plan.

Also, while I only own a cell phone, I'm not sure why cell phone owners don't have to pay taxes. If you're going to tax telephone owners, you might as well tax all of them. Its not as though a tax is going to reduce the number of cell phones. They're pretty much a necessity in our current society.

Finally, what does the City need more money for?

Regarding taxing cells:

Why should passing through airspace be taxable? My voice passes through airspace too, so should that be taxable? If not, where lies the difference? My TV remote uses an infra-red laser passing through airspace; should there be a tax on remote controls? My laptop has an infra-red communication port; should there be a tax on laptops? What about wireless networking?

Intellectual consistency requires taxing all communication methods that use the airspace, not just politically expedient ones. Or is this just about political expediency?

"Airspace usage" is not a good basis for taxation. Try again.

Regarding "clean money":
We need to round up 1000 co-conspirators; each of us gives $5 to each other. Then we go collect our "free" money from City Hall. Think of the $200 MILLION in lost funds as a civics lesson that ought to drive a stake through the heart of public financing for all time.

I really shouldn't argue with people like you, but you didn't read the whole post. I also said "causing auto accidents." And how about "ugliness of antennas"?

As for you and your remote controls, I'm sure we can distinguish based on strength of signal as it passes through the public right of way.

Turning to intellectual consistency in taxation, I hurt myself laughing at that one. To really seriously require that would contradict the entire history of taxation from the dawn of civilization. But if "all tax = bad" is your mantra, I suppose you may as well demand the impossible from those who disagree.

Of all the criteria for taxation, fairness is no. 1. And without a cell phone tax, the system we have now flunks that test badly.

Lastly, sorry, I can't support your run for mayor. I'm applying to be Phil Stanford's campaign manager.

Cell phone cause traffic accidents and the emergency responses suck up public dollars? What about rowdy kids riding in the back seat? What about food and coffee we purchase at the drive-throughs? What about fatigue? What about women applying make up? What about smoking? What about not knowing where you are going and looking too hard for streetsigns and the like? What about age and mental health related slow reaction time? What about looking for/changing CD's and tapes or the radio station?

Clearly I am tired of cell phones being blamed for accidents as any distraction has and does cause accidents. Most people are perfectly capable of talking safely on their cell phones. Some people, no matter what the distraction, cannot focus on the road. Fuzzy science creates too many solutions for problems that don't necessarily exist. Either tax every distraction or tax none of them.


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