Nevada, suffering from a $3 billion budget crisis, passed on a chance to raise at least $2 million a year. Yesterday, lawmakers said "No Thanks" to a $5, er, service tax, for duties performed by the state's few legalized brothels.
Despite support from the Nevada Brothel Owners Association, a state senate committee voted the tax down 4-3. As the AP story notes, the issue has created strange bedfellows: small business owners and tax-hungry Democrat senators:
"I don't know why people won't recognize that we have a legal industry," said [state] Sen. Bob Coffin, who is pushing for a tax on the world's oldest profession. "I'm willing to go in and do the dirty work if no one else will."
Coffin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Taxation Committee, said the state is desperate for revenue and he "will go anywhere" to find it, including the state's 25 legal brothels.
Prostitution lobbyists and "ranch" owners–actually working to have the tax levied–are looking for legitimacy from a state that already sins to survive:
About 30 percent of the state's general fund budget comes from taxes on the gambling industry, and lawmakers are considering increasing taxes on liquor and cigarettes. The state also imposes a 10 percent tax on admissions, drinks and food at various entertainment venues, including strip clubs, leaving Coffin to wonder why prostitution is not included.
The tax created an eclectic opposition: Religious conservatives and feminists, Republicans and Democrats. It also made for strange, tip-toed responses. Sen. Terry Care (D-Las Vegas) said, "[t]here is an implication there that the business takes a toll, at least on some women" [Italics added]. Sen. Mike McGinness, (R-Fallon) said he voted "nay" because he doesn't believe in taxing services. For Sen. Maggie Carlton ( D-Las Vegas) voting for the tax could have sent the wrong message to parents and daughters.
So brothels want legitimacy, and legislators are either moralists, or too afraid to pop their cherry. As the brothel's lobbyist, George Flint, said:
There's a little electric fence there, and they don't go beyond it very well...Nobody is able to reach a comfort level to just address it objectively.
Here's one idea: Those legal brothels could go ahead and charge
johns an extra $5 dollars a pop, then offer that estimated $2
million to cash-strapped programs themselves. While school might
have an issue with taking dirty money, surely gramps at the senior
center wouldn't complain too much. The best chance brothels have at
gaining public recognition as a legit industry is for them to
demonstrate their commitment to the community. What better
way than giving a helping hand