Just when we thought California’s government could not get any more dumb.
In addition to being known for some of America’s finest cities (I see you San Diego!), incredible beaches and natural wonders, and the best Mexican food this side of the Rio Grande, California is also known for having one of the most authoritarian and oppressive governments in the Union. The new laws and regulations put on the books in California each year often make national worst hits list. High taxes, high regulation, and social engineering are the name of the game for the government of California. So perhaps we should not be too surprised by this latest scheme.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), who already taxes phone services in the state, has proposed expanding this tax to text messages! Adding insult to injury, it has also been suggested that this tax be extended back five years! That’s right. The state wants to tax you for hundreds (thousands?) of text messages you probably do not even remember sending and have since erased. If I didn’t know any better, I would say the Commission has hired George Orwell to help them come up with some fresh new ideas.
“Taxing texts isn’t just regressive, it’s also unnecessary,” says state Assembly member Marie Waldron, a Republican from north San Diego. “The state is flush with cash, while ordinary Californians are struggling. The idea of increasing taxes on anything right now is absurd.”
The 52-page proposal by Commissioner Carla J. Peterman claims that the new revenue will go towards several different programs, including 911 services, subsidized phone service for low-income residents, and equipment for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Good intentions notwithstanding, the fate of this newly proposed (and ridiculous) tax is already being threatened.
On Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission approved a new rule which classifies text messages as an “information service” like email. Based on this rule change, the CTIA, a telecommunications advocacy group, filed a comment with the CPUC arguing that if text messages are an information service then the Commission lacks the authority to tax them.
We will have to watch and see how the situation ultimately plays out. But one thing is for certain: As long as the state government in California remains authoritarian, this will not be the last dumb policy proposal we see come out of the bureaucracy.