Reposted from Digital Liberty.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners have proposed legislation that would extend more of its amusement tax to other various forms of entertainment. The extended legislation would now include specific rules on resale of tickets in any form, a tax on activities such as bowling, billiard games, golf, other sports activities, and any “similar activities”. It would also tax every form of television.
According to the definition of amusement by the bill:
“With respect to paid television, any person operating a community antenna television system or wireless cable television system, or any person receiving consideration from the patron for furnishing, transmitting, or otherwise providing access to paid television programming. Paid television means programming that can be viewed on a television or other screen, and is transmitted by cable, fiber optics, laser, microwave, radio, satellite or similar means to members of the public for consideration.”
It also removes the current exemption on fees that allows people to consume entertainment from their own homes. These definitions and alterations would possibly mean taxing online video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. The bill also says, “It shall be presumed that all amusements are subject to tax under this article until the contrary is established by books, records or other documentary evidence.” This massive blanket statement might cover just about any action that somebody might find amusement with, but it further enforces the idea that video streaming services would be subject to a county tax.
The extension comes with Cook County having a $6.5 billion shortfall for pensions. “We have pension liabilities, unfunded liabilities of $6.5 billion, and we’re accruing additional obligations at the rate of $1 million a day. If you think about it, if you have a credit card and you never pay the principal or interest, you accrue more debt,” Preckwinkle said. According to Phil Rosenthal, writer for the Chicago Tribune, “All told, subjecting these things to the county’s existing 3 percent amusement tax will only net about $20.25 million, and $18 million of that is expected to come from taxing cable.”
Raising taxes on more forms of entertainment is not only a regressive tax, but an un-pragmatic one. $20.25 million would hardly put a dent in the unfunded pension shortfall, and further taxing things, like a game of bowling, just means less money for entertainment for lower earners, and just a chunk of change for Cook County. Although Preckwinkle has made efforts to cut back the budget, it needs further slashing if taxes in Cook County if it is to become even remotely fiscally responsible.