No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Polar opposites on phone taxes

by @ 11:28 on April 22, 2008. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee, Politics - National, Taxes.

Just when I thought there were no real differences left in the two halves of the bipartisan Party-In-Government, Sen. and certain Republican Presidential nominee John McCain and the tag team of Milwaukee mayor John Norquist, Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm, and governor Jim “Craps” Doyle (WEAC/Potawatomi-For Sale) prove me wrong. First, the local ‘Rats from Sunday’s Journal Sentinel story:

Barrett, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Police Chief Edward Flynn are asking Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature to give municipalities control over the 911 telephone surcharge that is supposed to expire Nov. 30. They’re hoping to add that provision to the budget-repair bill now under consideration….

The surcharge on cellular telephone users was created in 2005 to cover the costs of technology to pinpoint the locations of cell phones during calls to the 911 emergency number. Montgomery said that technology has saved at least 15 lives statewide.

The fee started at 83 cents a month, rose to 92 cents in 2006 and then dropped this year to 43 cents.

But before the fee expires, Barrett wants lawmakers to authorize municipal governments to retain the surcharge and expand it to cover all telephones, including land lines provided by both telephone and cable companies. Milwaukee would be able to boost its charge to a maximum of $1 a month in 2009 and $1.50 a month in future years.

Revenue from the surcharge would help fund the emergency services that respond to 911 calls, a technique that city officials say is also used in Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco and other major cities. At 50 cents a month, the surcharge would generate more than $2 million a year for Milwaukee, rising to $5.2 million for a $1 charge and $7.8 million for a $1.50 charge….

So, rather than find a way to cut $7.8 million from the bloated city budget, Milwaukee’s idiots want to raise taxes by radically expanding both in scope and amount upon something that is supposed to expire. Excuse me while I hurl, and note that these same Gorons want to keep the Miller Park tax past its supposed sunset date in 2014 so they could play with trains.

Revisions/extensions (4:42 pm 4/22/2008) – Fred notes in the comments there already is a 911 surcharge on landlines. That brings me to another reason why I hate these “small” and numerous charges; it’s all too easy to say, “Just a few shekels more for the chilrun/the elderly/the sick/the pooor/insert ‘disadvantaged’ group here.”

Meanwhile, McCain at least doesn’t like new taxes. From this morning’s Wall Street Journal:

Among the better ideas John McCain announced last week is a ban on new cellphone taxes. For America’s 257 million wireless subscribers, the GOP Presidential candidate is advancing a sensible policy with political punch.

A recent analysis by economist Scott Mackey in the journal State Tax Notes shows that the average monthly tax burden on wireless customers is more than 15% – double the average sales tax burden. In some states, such as New York (big surprise), the total tax bite is more than 20%.

If the pols were exercising even modest restraint, wireless consumers would now be enjoying a reduced tax bill. That’s because in 2006 the IRS stopped applying the Federal Excise Tax on Telecommunications to wireless services. The feds weren’t being generous. After the IRS suffered a series of defeats in federal court, then-Treasury Secretary John Snow ordered the bureaucrats to stop gouging consumers. The language of the law, passed in 1898 to fund the Spanish-American War and rewritten in the 1960s, clearly did not apply to today’s digital services.

But even though that 3% IRS levy has been knocked off the monthly bill, the overall cellphone tax burden is the same 15% it was in 2003. Increased Federal Communications Commission fees to underwrite universal service plus higher state taxes have offset the potential relief for consumers.

The WSJ editorial goes on to note there is a bipartisan (not Party-In-Government, surprisingly) propsal to put a moratorium on new cell phone taxes after listing a few other bizzare attempts by the PIGs to dig deeper into the pocketbook.

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