When I reached state Sen. Bob Coffin, chair of the Senate Taxation Committee, he was racing by car from Reno to Carson City, a day before his committee considered his proposal to tax patrons of prostitution $5 each time they get busy. It’s certainly one of those “only in Nevada” ideas, and when asked about the reaction to his proposal, Coffin described it as: “Uncertainty. Fear. Nervous. Cowardice. You know. And intentional misrepresentations.”
Coffin’s idea comes at a time when the state legislature is trying to close a budget deficit of more than $2 billion in the next biennium. His prostitution tax could bring in—are you sitting down?—$2 million a year, or $4 million during the biennium. He derives the figure from an official industry “head count of the amount of action in the legal brothels” in a year. (If you’re doing the math, that would break down to 1,100 a day.)
If it doesn’t sound like a lot of money, well, it isn’t. Coffin says it will “buy a lot of help for a lot of people,” not least of which would be $100,000 or so for an ombudsman to advocate for prostitutes. But more important, it seems, is that the bill will provide “a good test of nerve to see if people are willing to vote for a tax. Are they willing to get their hands dirty with a tax and not let other kinds of fears cloud their judgment?”
- Beyond the Weekly
- Prostitutes back $5 tax on services for state budget (Las Vegas Sun, 4/7/09)
- Proposed bill would tax prostitution at $5 per session (Las Vegas Sun, 3/23/09)
But why $5? It’s a “mutually agreed-upon figure” between Coffin and the brothel business. “When you’re going to create a new tax, those who are going to be taxed have to come grudgingly to the altar.”
Desperate times and desperate measures and all of that. So, we thought we’d step up to the senator’s challenge and propose a few other $5 taxes, and see whether we could match the projected revenue of his proposal.
The Jim Gibbons No New Taxes Tax
Gov. Gibbons has pledged over and over that he won’t raise taxes … education be damned … government be damned—this is Nevada, after all! We don’t need no stinkin’ government—we’ll turn this pledge on its head and tax the governor $5 every time he says it.
Pro: The governor would be taxing himself every time he opened his mouth.
Con: The just-noted mouth-always-open thing …
Estimated take: Not much, actually. If the governor talked about taxes 10 times a day for a year, that would be a measly $18,250. What else can we come up with?
The VIP Table Tax
It seems like one of the few benefits of the recession is that we don’t hear much about VIP tables, with all their bottle-service quaffing, holier-than-thou attitude. But now they might be useful for the common people. We could appraise the tables like you would real estate, and charge the appropriate “property tax”—but in the interest of keeping things simple, we’ll assess the same $5 levy to every VIP table in town.
Pro: Those who got to the second and third bottle wouldn’t notice … and they have the money.
Con: Surely the number of VIP denizens has nosedived in the recession.
Estimated take: $300,000.
The Failing Students Tax
Nevada’s education system is already strapped—and real tax cuts proposed by the governor (see above) may effectively kill the higher-education system. So let’s tax parents five bucks every time their kids come home with Ds or Fs, and send that money back to the school the student attends.
Pro: Unfortunately, our schools are struggling, so we might get a lot of students who fit the bill.
Con: Students might be encouraged to perform poorly, with the notion they’re making the state better.
Estimated take: $2.5 million.
Harried Conventioneers Tax
True, we already tax conventioneers, through a rental-car tax and a room tax. But they don’t know that. Watch them walking down Paradise after a long day at the convention center. These people are tired, beat. They want a drink. They’re not going to notice an extra $5.
Pro: Some 5.8 million people visited the city last year.
Con: None, really!
Estimated take: In the neighborhood of $29 million.
The Statewide Sex Act Tax
Maybe Coffin’s tax would work best on the rest of us.
Pro: Because it’s only $5! And because your state needs you.
Con: Well, that depends on if you’re married or not ...
Estimated take: Let’s see. If half a million people have sex once a week … $125 million.