MADISON, Wis. - Following the passage of a similar proposal in New York, the Wisconsin state legislature has approved a 5 percent tax on Internet downloads to take effect in October.
Backed by Governor Jim Doyle, the tax will apply to music, movies, downloads, games, ringtones, e-books, greeting cards and other items, according to the Associated Press. This would presumably include adult content.
Wisconsin faces a $600 million deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30, and a $5.7 billion deficit in the next state budget. Doyle claims the tax will generate $11 million in revenue over a two-year period.
The Democrat-dominated Wisconsin legislature passed the bill Wednesday without Republican support, calling it a state stimulus package to work in conjunction with the recently passed federal stimulus.
"I'm proud of this bill and I think it will get people back to work," said Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville).
Republicans have blasted the bill as "irresponsible." The measure wasn't made public until Monday and was never subject to a public hearing.
"It's hard to dream up a more foolish time to raise taxes on Wisconsin businesses," said Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-West Berlin).
The download tax is part of a bill that also raises taxes on hospitals and corporate income, according to Fox News.
The New York state legislature passed its controversial download tax in April 2008. Although Governor David Paterson is supporting the legislation, the measure has provoked backlash from consumers and online retailers including Amazon, which filed suit against the state shortly after the bill passed.
Vivid Entertainment co-chairman Steven Hirsch, AEBN president Scott Coffman, and other adult industry execs have voiced opposition to download taxes.
Hirsch sees these measures as a way for politicians to "pick on the porn guys" during an economic recession.
"It's easy to pick on the porn guys when things are tough," the Vivid co-chairman told AVN, "because no one's going to stand up and say, 'Don't tax my porn.' Sex is a very private thing, and the vast majority of people choose to watch it in the privacy of their own home. It's a very anonymous thing, so when it comes to something like this, consumers are not necessarily going to take the lead."