Although a federal ruling recently put the kibosh on a California plan to tax text messages, Republicans in the Assembly want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Government policies have already made California unaffordable for far too many, and becoming the first state in the nation to tax texting would only make things worse.”—Assemblyman Kevin Kiley
Seven Republican assemblymembers plan to sign on as co-authors, including Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno).
“Text messaging is integral to modern communication, especially for young people, and should remain tax free,” Kiley said in a statement. “Government policies have already made California unaffordable for far too many, and becoming the first state in the nation to tax texting would only make things worse.”
CPUC Proposes, Withdraws TaxThe CPUC, the state agency which regulates cell phone services among other duties, planned to vote on whether to impose such a tax at its Jan. 10 meeting. When the news broke, it received negative reaction from politicians, pundits, and residents.
On Dec. 12, the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling that text messages could not be subject to taxation, because texting is an information service, not a telecommunication service. CPUC does have authority over the latter, but not the former.
Commissioner Carla Peterman brought forth the resolution. After the FCC ruling, she withdrew her proposal. However, she is wrapping up her six-year term on the commission. Incoming governor Gavin Newsom is expected to announce her replacement when he takes office next month.
“You can bet I’ll keep a watchful eye on them for future shenanigans,” Patterson tweeted following the FCC announcement.
Peterman was not available for comment.
“While I am glad that the CPUC has withdrawn its proposal — for now — it is important that the Legislature act to prevent the agency from imposing any text tax in the future,” Kiley said.
Advocacy Group Supported Surcharge
The community advocacy group Greenlining Institute supported CPUC’s authority to impose a surcharge on text messaging but is not outright opposed to Kiley’s bill.
“I support the assemblymember’s desire to protect consumers. Unfortunately, there has been so much misinformation on this policy. This law could do more harm than good. We are more than willing to work with the assemblymember,” Greenlining telecommunications policy director Paul Goodman said.
Goodman disagreed with the characterization from the FCC that the CPUC lacked the authority to impose what he called a surcharge.
“It’s a line pushed by industry. It’s inaccurate,” Goodman said.
As Greenlining saw it, the charge on texting would help low-income families with telecommunication needs.
“It is good public policy. This money is collected to provide services to low-income families — to help build infrastructure to make sure everyone has access to quality services,” Goodman said.