Taxing Texting... WTF?!

Bankrupt Vallejo to vote on updated taxes

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    Vallejo is updating its tax laws but not everyone is exactly happy about the change.

    Voters in Vallejo will have a chance on Tuesday to decide on Measure U, which would lower the utility tax on a resident's total bill from 7.5 percent to 7.3 percent, but widen the services covered -- from gas, electricity, water and traditional phone lines to modern telecommunications.

    Sounds good, right. Not if you're into texting, some say.

    The measure also expands the tax to include text messages, private phone networks, pagers and voice-over-Internet calling services. So, if you text a lot and pay per message, the tax will actually tack a percentage onto your total bill.

    Lawmakers in the Vallejo say the tax boost is essential to help keep the North Bay city afloat. After all, the city filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and is barely surviving, as its general fund shrunk from $83 million to $65 million in less than two years.

    But opponents point out that, while the measure brings the city up-to-date on paper, it's  unfair and violates free speech.

    Kenneth Brooks, who writes a blog called Ethicalego, calls on voters to reject the measure:

    City officials claim this automatic extension of the tax is a positive gain from Measure U that insures equal treatment of all taxpayers using communication services. Contrary to this assertion, Measure U forfeits Vallejo residents’ right to vote their wishes about extending the tax to future communication services that use new technology.

    If it passes, Vallejo would join more than 40 cities across California that have already adopted an expanded tax on utilities to meet with the modernization of telecommunications.