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Proposed California texting tax would benefit low-income residents

Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 21:39:24-05

California public utility officials want to tax you for texting and Californians aren’t LOL-ing about the proposal.

“They’re going tax us for breathing next,” said Jonathon Manor, a San Luis Obispo resident. “I mean, honest to God, what are they going to tax next?”

Grover Beach resident Alyson Gibler uses her phone often for business. She had a similar reaction to the proposed tax.

“That’s crazy. We’re so taxed already in California in general,” Gibler said.

The proposal is stirring OMG reaction from those who argue that texting is a form of speech, therefore not taxable.

The Commission said in its report that it does have the power to impose the tax and plans to establish that as fact at a meeting set for Thursday.

Though the amount of the tax and how it would be applied is still being determined, the Commission said in its report that the money generated from the tax would fund Public Purpose Programs, which allow low-income families and individuals access to a phone.

“About 29 percent of households in San Luis Obispo County struggle to make ends meet,” said SLO United Way CEO Rick London.

London argues that despite the stereotype that recipients of Public Purpose Programs are “lazy and don’t work,” many of those people have jobs but still can’t afford a phone bill.

“Without communication, it’s hard to get to resources, hard to find work,” London said.

Participation in Lifeline, which offers low-income California residents discounted service for either a cell phone or landline, has been increasing rapidly.

But Manor, who said it’s costly enough to live in California, doesn’t believe he should be on the hook for someone else’s phone bill.

“Why are my tax dollars paying for others to have phones?” Manor asked. “I do believe in helping low-income families but honestly, it’s just another program that’s going to get out of control.”

The PPP increased its budget by $328 million from 2011 to 2017. In that same time, revenue generated from the state’s total reported intrastate telecommunications industry dipped 32 percent, falling from $16.527 billion in 2011 to $11.296 billion in 2017.

That imbalance sparked the tax debate, one London believes is at least worth having.

“It’s probably something worth discussing for people to get in touch with how important this new technology is to survival,” London said. “It used to be you needed to know how to hunt. Times have changed and using a phone has become very important to survival.”

A vote on the issue has been scheduled for Jan. 10.