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Utah Passes 10% Sin Tax

Salt Lake City- It’s hard to believe that sex still exists in Utah much less the fact of leveling a tax on it. But Utah house members on Friday approved a special 10 percent tax on nude dancing and escort services.

House Bill 239 would generate an estimated $500,000 the first year and $1 million annually thereafter if imposed on certain sexually explicit businesses, according to legislative budget analysts.

“We’re not saying we want to shut these businesses down,” said sponsoring Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, D-Salt Lake City. “We’re saying we want them to pay for” costs associated with treating sex offenders.

Some opposed the measure on principle.

“I think it’s dirty money,” said Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

“It is unclean money, but [Bourdeaux’s] internally dedicated it for an appropriate purpose,” said Rep. LaVar Christensen. Most of the money would go for treatment programs for convicted sex offenders, with 15 percent reserved for the Attorney General’s Office to investigate Internet child sex crimes.

Bourdeaux bemoaned the steep increase in sex crimes in Utah and nationally in recent years, adding that “many sex offenders utilize these type [nude dancing and escort] services.”

Bourdeaux urged lawmakers to “stand tall” and vote for the bill. He said to vote against it would send a message that “says let’s go home and not deal with this issue.”

The bill passed 51-16 over the opposition of lawmakers who warned that it likely was unconstitutional and almost sure to invite a costly lawsuit against the state.

“I do personally believe we’re overstepping First Amendment rights,” said Rep. Dave Ure, R-Kamas. “I think it will come back to haunt us and it will cost us some money.”

Rep. Judy Buffmire, D-Millcreek, questioned why potential court battles were brought up in the sex-industry tax when the Republican majority didn’t blink at constitutional concerns over anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage bills.

 

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