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California Wants to Tax Conversations…Literally

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

We have a saying here in California - a state motto of sorts.

If it’s a thing, tax it.

Okay, I made that up. But it isn’t far from the truth. With a Democrat super-majority in Sacramento there is almost no opposition to any tax proposals that come up. Republicans often and with regularity cross the aisle to vote for big tax and spend packages in exchange for some of that money being spent in their own districts and on their own campaigns. Anywhere else in the country we might call that a “bribe”. Here in California we just call it “business as usual”.


It’s disheartening. There’s a reason why California ranks as one of the worst states for business in the entire country. There’s a reason we continue to hemorrhage tax payers and corporations that provide thousands of jobs. Californians are entitled to less and less of their money in a never-ending stream of fees, taxes and spending schemes. It is nearly unbearable. When voters fight back, the Democrat super-majority simply finds a workaround and votes for it. Sometimes they even sneak into the legislature in the dead of night and quietly change the rules so voters have no say at all on a given spending package. Often we aren’t even notified of it. It is simply handed down from on high. Swallow it or leave - if you can even afford the moving costs.

It is Christmas, and in the true spirit of giving (taxpayers a kick in the head) and the true spirit of California politics, politicians in Sacramento have discovered something they haven’t taxed yet and they look poised to rectify that. You may be asking, “What on earth is left to tax there?” and that is a fair question. After all, we tax rain water, energy, soda, even the air we breathe…literally. What’s left?

Text messages.

Yes, you read that correctly. Text messages.  

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that state regulators are looking to levy a tax on text messages in an effort to fund phones for low-income residents. The state already taxes our cell phone service and the cell phones themselves, but it’s never enough for the state. Now they want to tax the things you do with your phone that has already been taxed.



Oh yes, there’s always more. Not only does the state want to tax our text messages, they want to make it retroactive by up to five years.

Five years!

Think about that for a moment. Imagine what has to happen for your state to have access to the last five years of your texting. Imagine being hit all at once for five years of back-taxes on your texting history. Imagine what that phone bill would look like. In one svelte swoop we’d all be qualifying for cell phone welfare.

This might be the one saving grace for California taxpayers, as such an act may make the entire endeavor illegal. There also seems to be plenty of opposition even from the most “liberal” conclaves in the state.

The president of the Bay Area Council business group calls the proposal a “dumb idea” and other residents of the Bay Area have described it as “dumb” and “unfair”.

In fact, “dumb” seems to be the most popular descriptor of this dumb idea.

The California Public Utilities Commission may be voting on the proposal as early as next month, so time is short. However, unlike with other taxes that people find easy to accept because they involve taxing those other people, a text message tax affects nearly everyone.

Black or white, man or woman, legal resident or illegal resident, rich or poor…just about everyone has a cell phone these days and if you have a cell phone you are definitely using it to text.


Perhaps if enough people hear about this tax they’ll make enough fuss to put this one on the back burner for a while. I’d say “kill it” but in California no bad idea ever dies. It just gets new sponsors.

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