Expensive Grandstanding in the House

PrintFriendly and PDF

The state House Appropriations Committee late last week passed a $2.5 million annual tax on Internet users in Louisiana. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell requested the money for an “Internet Crimes Investigations Fund.” Caldwell and legislators of both parties took the opportunity to grandstand about the dangers of online sex predators and position themselves as protectors of children.

In reality, serious child-porn rings are large national and international operations beyond the purview of state and local law enforcement agencies — no matter how high they jack local taxes. The FBI and and transnational organizations such as INTERPOL are best equipped to crackdown on real child-porn rings.

What makes this exercise even more futile is that the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act forbids states from taxing Internet use. Caldwell and company call the tax a “fee,” but this semantic game won’t keep the matter out of federal courts. Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T have objected to the bill, and litigation seems likely. Much, maybe all, of these new funds will likely be spent fighting the federal government and telecommunications companies in federal court.

“Internet crimes,” from fraud to child endangerment, are no different than any other crimes. The Attorney General’s office needs to prioritize within its exsting budget or just request more general funding if it really needs more computer forensic investigators. The scare campaign may a cheap way to score political points, but this illegal tax could ultimately cost Louisiana more than it brings in.

  • In Louisiana, Exploiting Children to Fight the Exploitation of Children

    When a politician argues that something is necessary to protect the children, you can almost always guarantee it’s time to hold onto your freedoms, your wallet or both. And so it goes in Louisiana.

    Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is pushing for a first-of-its-kind law, now headed to the Senate, to raise taxes—though the AG calls it a fee—by at least $2.4 million a year on Louisiana taxpayers who simply desire being on the Information Superhighway. His reason? To “finance” a division of his office for investigating more sex crimes against children online.

    The irony here is stunnng. While the federal government is spending billions of stimulus dollars, including Louisiana citizens’ hard-earned money, to promote Internet usage, the AG is fighting the spirit, if not word, of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, designed to promote Internet usage and facilitate wider-spread adoption of broadband.

    The Pelican State already taxes communications in a highly discriminatory way.

    • Win big in Shreveport and pay a 6 percent tax on your winnings;

    • Buy a bottle of wine in Lafayette and pay 8.0 percent, or

    • Buy pornography and pay up to 9.75 percent;

    • But check an email on your mobile phone and pay … 10.58 percent.

    And this is before layering on the new additional proposed tax.

    Of course, the AG has alternate sources of funds, and Mr. Caldwell should shift current resources to handle it—or should not have reduced spending in this area in the first place.

    Even if additional taxes, or “fees,” must be levied on taxpayers, Louisiana could follow neighboring Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and add an additional one dollar to citations issued statewide, such as traffic tickets, wildlife violations, or citations for disorderly conduct—bad acts paying to fight other bad acts.

    The criminals the AG is going after already are the worst of the worst, preying upon the most innocent of our society. But why exploit these same innocents to raise more money for his office?

    The Governor says he opposes tax increases. And “fee” increases on the people are no different. Perhaps instead of making Louisiana first in discriminatory taxes, he will lead the country in innovative solutions.