Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Mark Pryor
Date: April 24, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PRYOR. I wish to talk about amendment No. 740, which is an amendment I am offering with the Senator from Missouri, Mr. Blunt. We understand there will be an objection to this. I will not ask unanimous consent to call it up at this moment. Hopefully, one of our colleagues will arrive in a minute to do that.

Let me say first that I am for the Marketplace Fairness Act. I am a cosponsor. I believe it is the right thing to do. It is an issue I have been working on since my time more than 10 years ago in the attorney general's office in the State of Arkansas when we were trying to set up a multistate compact about how to collect sales tax on the Internet. This is taxes on Internet sales on the Internet.

What I am talking about today, the Pryor-Blunt amendment, is different. We are talking about amendment No. 740, which is sometimes confused with it, but basically amendment No. 740 deals with the Internet Tax Freedom Act--sometimes called ITFA, of all things--but nonetheless, basically it does just a few things.

First, it makes it clear that online retailers will not begin to have to pay additional tax just for doing business online. So the way this works is that right now States and cities, counties, et cetera, are prohibited from taxing Internet service. We are not talking about sales tax, we are talking about Internet service, the Internet service itself. This is a moratorium that has been around for a long time. Amendment No. 740 is the amendment that would extend this for 10 years.

This is a clean extension. Basically, there are some States that have been grandfathered under the current moratorium. They will continue to be grandfathered. We do not cover things such as voice, audio, video. That is a separate issue. We are talking about just the Internet itself.

This also does not have any negative impact on the Universal Service Fund, 9-1-1, e911, and other fees like those. Those are separate. We have crafted this very carefully to do just a straight and clean 10-year extension.

We understand there will be an objection to this. Before we hear that objection, I yield the floor for my colleague from Missouri.

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Mr. PRYOR. I see my colleague from Oregon is here, and he has a long history with this legislation and other legislation similar to it. Let me make one final point before I try to set aside the current amendment and bring up 740 to make it pending.

My final point is this: The Internet has been an amazing success story. It is unbelievable how successful it has been, how diverse, and how robust. But we think of it as ubiquitous. The truth is, it is not. In the United States, 80 percent of American households have access to the Internet, but only 65 percent take it. So only 65 percent of people in this country actually utilize the Internet and take Internet service.

I am afraid if we do add a tax, if the State and local governments add a tax, it will make it less affordable. A lot of people do not take Internet service because they cannot afford it. So I am afraid if we allow State and local governments to tax access to the Internet--tax the service itself--then we will see that effort hurt even more.

I ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and call up amendment No. 740 to make it pending.

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