Oregonians pay some of the lowest taxes on cellular phones in the country. That could be about to change.
A new tax on cellphones is on the agenda for this week’s special legislative session, according to The Oregonian. The tax will raise money for rural broadband. You can read it on the Legislature’s website.
We’d like to be able to give you more details. We really can’t, yet.
The bill simply spells out changes in the text of the law. It does not answer the basic question most Oregonians would want to know:
How much will it increase my bill?
What exactly will the money to support rural broadband do?
How will decisions be made about spending the money?
What reviews will be made to ensure the money was well spent?
A similar bill died in the 2019 Legislature. That bill would have cost cellphone subscribers between $4 and $12 more a year and raised about $10 million for rural broadband, The Oregonian reported. By itself, that increase doesn’t sound like much. And the problem is indeed real. Some parts of Oregon do not have access to high-speed internet. The pandemic has made it clear how important that service is. Cellphone carriers fought the 2019 bill, arguing in part that it doesn’t make sense to tax cellphone service to add broadband.
Typically as a bill moves through the legislative process, there are summaries written describing in more detail what the bill would do. In a special session of perhaps only a few days, though, will Oregonians get adequate time to understand, analyze and respond to this proposed new tax? Legislators need to ensure they do.