Alabama House Committee Passes Massive Porn Tax

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, September 10th, 2015, 6:33 PM PERMALINK


Rather than fix a $200 million overspending problem before October 1, the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee has passed a 40 percent “porn tax” on the gross receipts from the sale, rental, or admission charges of pornographic material. This includes pornographic magazines, adult videos, and online adult rentals.

Alabama lawmakers have struggled to pass a budget this year, now into their second special legislative session. Negotiations began in February with a proposal from Gov. Robery Bentley to raise taxes by more than $500 million. Despite having campaigned on his personal written commitment to oppose tax hikes, the governor has rejected budget restraint and reforms that did not include tax increases. The governor has attacked conservative lawmakers, threatened to withhold state funding for local projects, and neglected the will of taxpayers who elected him as a result of his promise to oppose tax hikes since the beginning of session. 

Though Bentley's proposals to raise cigarette taxes, eliminate state deductions for F.I.C.A. taxes, and a wide range of other targeted tax hikes have been rejected by the legislature thus far, the legislature has until October 1 to balance the budget in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestava Hills) explained his reasoning for proposing the massive tax by saying “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.”

Despite declining tobacco use and tax revenue, typical proponents of tobacco tax hikes have cited the impact on public health costs borne by taxpayers as a result of smoking. Proposals, like those from the governor, that include cigarette tax hikes will only increase the state'd dependence on cigarettes, an extremely volatile source of revenue. It is unclear what public health program porn tax revenue would fund.

It is also unclear how books and movies will be treated with regards to the new tax. One person described a conflicting scenario where "Fifty Shades of Grey" the book would be taxed as porn but the movie, which is rated “R” by the Motion Picture Association of America might not be.

Proposals like this come as a result of pressure from Governor Bentley, who threatened to release criminals unless lawmakers raised taxes this spring. He noted in April, "you may not care about prisoners…but when you have them in your basement, you're going to care." 

A fiscal note is not available. The porn tax now heads to the full Alabama House for a floor vote.

Related: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Proposes More Tax Hikes in Second Special Session

Related: Alabama Lawmakers Balk at Tax Hikes, Set to Cut State Spending

Related: Robert Bentley Breaks His Pledge, Runs From the Truth

Related: Alabama Governor Unveils $541 Million Tax Hike

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