LA Times Soft Sells Illegal Tax
We'll have to keep Patterico in mind for hosting duties if we ever decide to throw a NewsBusters game show (although be warned, we're fiscally conservative, so the prize would probably be a cheap Rosie O'Donnell doll).
The blogger unveils the latest round of a game he likes to call "Spot the L.A. Times Article!":
Which one of these articles about L.A.’s phone tax is from the L.A. Weekly — and which is from the L.A. Times?
If you ask the voters to reinstate a tax after it’s been thrown out by the courts, it’s a new tax. But if you beat the courts to it — by convincing voters to approve a slightly lower tax before the higher one is invalidated — is it a tax “reduction”?
Yes, says Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is pitching a ballot initiative that would ask voters to approve a 9 percent tax on cell-phone and land-line calls. That’s slightly lower than the 10 percent residents currently pay — an illegal tax on Los Angeles residents that Villaraigosa and the City Council never should have collected because voters did not approve it, according to recent court rulings.
Hoping to keep up with changing telephone technology while salvaging the city’s budget, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to put a $243-million telephone utility users tax on the Feb. 15 presidential primary ballot.
Worried that a pending court ruling could eliminate the 40-year-old tax, the council agreed to ask voters to preserve it and, to ward off future lawsuits, grant the city the power to tax telephone services that have not yet been invented.
One article tells you straight out that the tax is illegal and that the effort to portray it as a reduction is a sham.
The other mentions the need to “salvag[e] the city’s budget” in the very first sentence, and portrays the tax as a venerable, longstanding tradition (”the 40-year-old tax”) that is the hapless victim of new technology.