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Louisiana lawmakers have a reputation for their “creative use” of taxpayer money. And now they’ve come up with a way to get their hands on more of it — under the dubious guise of “Saving the Children.”
The new tax: a 15 cent surcharge on everybody’s Internet bill.
Doesn’t sound like much to save all those kids, does it?
The idea, according to backers of the bill that just passed the Louisiana House, is that the money raised would be used to fight “cybercrime.”
And who are the most innocent victims of cybercrime? Why kids of course!
According to an Associated Press account of the bill’s passage, Rep. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Denham Springs, said he sponsored the bill for Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, to raise money to finance a division in Caldwell’s office that investigates Internet crimes, particularly online sex crimes against children.
The measure would raise $2.4 million a year for Caldwell’s department, according to a financial analysis.
“I don’t think that 15 cents per month is too much to ask for our children’s protection,” said Rep. Simone Champagne, D-Jeanerette.
While White called it a usage fee, opponents called the charge a tax on Internet access. They’ve questioned whether it violates a federal law prohibiting states from taxing Internet services and would be challenged in court.
It’s also yet to be explained how this “usage fee” would impact businesses. Would each company computer with Web access be assessed the fee?
And why should cybercrime be granted additional funds when there are plenty of other criminal investigative teams out there that would have to go begging for resources?
As one lawmaker quipped: “I don’t think we should start instituting a revenue stream for every criminal element that’s out there.”
The charge on Internet access would begin in 2010, charged to users on their monthly bill. Public libraries and public schools would be exempt. The dollars would flow into an “Internet Crimes Investigation Fund” for Caldwell’s office to investigate online sex crimes, online child pornography and Internet fraud schemes.
But all the conversation on the House floor centered on sex crimes against children.
Of course it did. Why talk about identity and data theft from adults and corporations (who couldn’t get protection from the rain these days) when you can talk about sex crimes against children.
Who exactly is gonna vote against protecting children from sex crimes? And let’s just imagine their re-election campaign if they do.
Of course, all this puts smooth-talking Gov. Bobby Jindal in something of a pickle. He’s a big law and order guy who rails about criminals and how we need to get tough on them.
But he’s also an avowed no-new-taxes guy as well. Which puts him squarely in the category of “We Must Have Government Services But I’m Not Going To Pay for Them.”
Good luck with that, Bobby.
The bill now heads next to the Senate for debate.
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