In what is likely the only victory for Wisconsin taxpayers, the Joint Finance Committee voted 10-6 to continue to exempt cell phone users from the state Universal Service Fund, as they have since 2001 (not to be confused with the federal Universal Service Fund; side note, the federal USF does tax cell phone users). Predictably, the tax-and-spenders at The Capital Times took exception to that. Let’s see what the state USF does:
- Give telecommunications equipment to non-profits – Golly, isn’t it nice that the state is so damn generous with my money. Of course, if they didn’t take over 10% of what the Wisconsin economy produces, maybe those non-profits would get enough donations to cover the expense.
- Give telecommunications equipment to “non-profit” and rural health care providers – The rural portion is duplicated by the feds. The “non-profit” portion is answered above.
- Help subsidize telecommunications equipment for the deaf – I can’t argue with the general premise; however, this is not means-tested.
- Low-income assistance – This is also duplicated by the feds. Further, there are some pretty damn cheap cell phone plans that don’t require credit – as an example, Net 10 offers 60 days/300 minutes of service for $30 (plus sales tax), phones for less than $40, and those unused minutes do roll over.
- Pay-phone subsidies – This is pretty much a self-limiting “problem” as more people get cell phones. Of course, if it becomes more expensive to get cell phones, then more people are going to need pay phones.
- “High rate” assistance – Again, duplicated by the feds. One of the main reasons for high rates is the level of taxation, including the duelling USFs.
It sure looks like it’s time to consider getting rid of the state USF, and I wouldn’t be opposed to dumping the federal USF as well.