Pole Tax Proposed in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Republican State Rep. in Pennsylvania has proposed implementing the same "pole tax" on strip clubs there that was declared unconstitutional in Texas but is still being enforced.

Pennsylvania Rep. Paul Clymer recruited 20 sponsors for the proposition after Texas adopted its mandatory $5-per-person strip club surcharge in January, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Clymer later revised his ordinance draft when Texas District Court Judge Scott H. Jenkins ruled in late March that the tax violated the First Amendment.

The Texas tax went into effect despite Jenkins' ruling because Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the decision, thus automatically suspending the injunction barring the state from collecting it. While that case is being appealed, Clymer is moving forward with his proposal in Pennsylvania, with hopes it won't face similar legal challenges.

"There are too may risks, too many problems with this industry," Clymer said, naming underage drinking, disorderly conduct and prostitution as "secondary effects."

State Senate majority whip Jane Orie has also suggested a possible excise tax on all sexually oriented businesses, and called for a study of their effects on a community.

"If these establishments in fact have an impact on crime, property taxes and economic development, then we should look at ways we can generate revenue to mitigate those effects," Orie said.

Angelica Spencer, executive director of the Florida-based National Association of Club Executives, which represents over 3,800 adult clubs, disputed these assertions, and called Clymer and Orie's proposals selective taxation she sees as a "desperate search for funding."  

"Why are we wasting legislators' time and taxpayers' money with this?" Spencer asked. "It all looks pretty on paper, but when you do a veracity check of all these claims that are made about the secondary effects, you start to discover that a lot of the claims aren't true."

She also pointed out that adult businesses already pay their fair share of taxes in Pennsylvania, including business taxes, property taxes and liquor licenses.

Clymer said he first became interested in imposing adult business regulations after the controversial December opening of Coyotes Show Club in Milford Township, which is in his district. His pole tax proposal calls for the money raised to go to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

In the case of the Texas tax, Judge Jenkins ruled that the intended use of those funds — providing health care for the uninsured — was unrelated to the business activity. Clymer hopes that helping victims of sexual abuse will be deemed a related cause.