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Quinn Wants "iTunes Tax"

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Apr 21, 2010 6:00PM

If Gov. Quinn gets his wish, we could soon be paying a little extra tax on music and movies downloaded from online retailers like iTunes or Amazon. The impact of a tax wouldn't be immediate but would build over time. Or so supporters of the tax hope. The tax was part of a bundle of tax proposals - estimated at $391 million if tax change laws - that Quinn has been working on in an effort to fill the state's $13 billion budget hole.

Now, digital downloads are not taxed by state government, depriving Springfield of up to $10 million in revenues annually. But that figure could grow over time as more people download entertainment from Internet sites such as iTunes and Amazon.

“We think that’s an area where we’ve not kept up with technological change,” said David Vaught, director of Quinn’s Office of Management and Budget.

So what exactly is Quinn proposing? A $9.99 album would carry a tax of 50-cents while a $14.99 movie would carry a tax of 75-cents. But how big of a deal is this really? 19 states already have a similar tax in place and as The Reader's Whet Moser (who coined the much more clever "iTax") points out, when a similar law went into effect in Wisconsin last year and while there was some frustration, there was no great outcry. But there is now among state Republicans. Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) told the Sun-Times, “It will be an interesting education for younger voters about the reach of the state’s treasury into their pockets. I don’t suspect it’ll be well-received at all.” Fine, Sen. Murphy, but what other lessons can the younger voters learn by watching as funding to schools and social services get slashed because there's no money in the state budget? Not to say taxes are the only way to salvage the budget, but slashing key funding doesn't seem the best way to manage the gap either.