There are merely taxes that people pay attention to, and then there are taxes that people forget about. And once they forget about them, the government can safely and quietly make them permanent. Wisconsin’s cell phone tax is a case in point:
In 2003, the state created the cell phone tax to upgrade 911 response services. When the upgrade was done, it left a balance of $20 million in the state’s coffers, which was slated to be returned back to consumers as a credit on their phone bill.
However, Gov. [Jim] Doyle has now proposed extending the cell phone tax, raising it by 75-cents, and then making it applicable to all landlines as well. Oh, then he would then add another 56-cent tax to cell phones for the state’s Universal Service Fund, which has nothing to do with cell phone usage. All told, the proposal amounts to a $100 million per year tax increase on cell phone users.
See also local blogs Wigderson Library & Pub, No Runny Eggs, and Boots and Sabers for more details. I will repeat: this is how permanent tax hikes happen. It’s easy to put them in – and once they’re there, they’re staying there, as Wigderson reminded us about the 100 year old phone tax. Remember that any government will always consider a tax to be justified (otherwise, it wouldn’t impose it in the first place), and will thus think nothing of trying to find some way to keep it, and the revenue that it represents. That’s just the way the world works – and that’s one reason why the GOP defaults to supporting tax cuts: it’s always a safe bet to make that the government’s taking too much of your money.
Needless to say, both the Governor and the state legislature of Wisconsin are Democratic. Still, that party’s control of the legislature is by thin margins, so pushback is possible. People are coordinating one through here and here; I suggest that people check it out, particularly the ones from Wisconsin itself.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.