Monday, August 27, 2012

New Tax in Illinois Misses the Point

This weekend I read a post about a new tax on strip clubs in the state of Illinois. The tax will apply to any club offering live nude entertainment and will amount to about $3 per customer. The money from the tax will go into a fund that will be dispersed to Illinois sexual assault centres.

This is being lauded as an awesome move. Fund the Sexual Assault Centres! Yay! Give money to victims of sexual violence. Yay! Tax those pesky strip clubs for all of the evil they perpetrate on our society. Yay!

Sure, yay for the government of Illinois. Until you start to think about it. First of all, why is it that the SAC's so desperately need this money? It's because their funding has been significantly cut, every year for the past three the state. Yes, that's right. They receive funding from general revenue from the State of Illinois. but that funding has been cut by more than 1.2 million over the last 3 years. So if they've chosen to cut that funding and reallocate that money, why are they not considered the villains in this story rather than the heroes? They have the option of revamping their budgets and reinstating that funding. Instead, they are pushing that responsibility off onto private business owners.

What no one seems to be explaining here is why they consider it the responsibility of the strip clubs to pay for the sexual assault services. Why should there be an extra tax on strip clubs at all? Strip clubs already pay for all of their licensing and follow the guidelines that are set out for them in order to operate in the districts that they are in. Why should they have to pay another tax just to stay in business? I know the connection probably seems clear to some people but it certainly doesn't to me. The existence of strip clubs does not cause sexual assault and strip clubs do not cause any outright risk or harm that is not already dealt with under their security and licensing requirements.

Yes, strip clubs have sometimes been associated with organized crime. But that can be true of any business that deals mostly in cash and customer service rather than sale of goods. It's easy to launder money in a situation like that. But that has nothing at all to do with sexual assault. There are measures under taxation laws in place to deal with that.

This is just another instance where people are trying to get rid of something that they don't like. Or, if they can't get rid of it, punish it severely.

A $3 per person surcharge is rather hefty. The clubs will have to pass that on to their patrons and that is going to affect their business. If they have to pay to much to come in, people will stay away. The people who dreamed up this stupid tax know that.

Of course I think that funding the sexual assault centres is a good thing. It's an important thing. It's very important that those centres stay open. But if the state had funded them previously, it needs to keep doing that. This is just putting a burden onto business owners that should not rightfully be theirs. If I owned a strip joint in Illinois, I would be rallying my fellow business owners to launch a massive discrimination suit against the state.

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