Kemp: A ‘Netflix tax’ probably won’t fly in Georgia

Gov. Brian Kemp.  (Bob Andres/AJC)

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Gov. Brian Kemp. (Bob Andres/AJC)

Gov. Brian Kemp said he would likely oppose a proposal that would impose a tax on internet services like Netflix, e-books and music downloads to raise money to expand rural broadband access.

The Republican said in an interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting that he wants to find other ways to bring more internet access to rural areas, and that he's in talks with legislative leaders to hash out ways to "get this done right now."

"My first inclination is not to look at tax increases to pay for this," he said in the interview, which aired Tuesday night.

“If we’re going to have some sort of offset, I’d be open to looking at that. I don’t know that raising taxes is the answer for me. I don’t know what the Legislature is thinking on that regard.”

State lawmakers last year abandoned a proposal to levy a 4 percent tax on communications services to subsidize internet access for rural areas amid stiff opposition from conservatives.

It's unclear if a version of the proposal will be revived this year, but a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll indicated dim public support for the idea. Only 28 percent of people surveyed supported the tax, while 66 percent were against it.

The governor made bolstering rural Georgia’s infrastructure a cornerstone of his campaign, and he said in the interview he would live up to his promise to bring more internet access to those areas.

“We cannot continue to wait. This is very important to rural Georgia,” he said. “And even more important than that, it’s important to the whole state. It will help our economy as a whole, and it will diversify our entire economy.”

Other tidbits from the interview:

  • Kemp said no dice to a perennial push to legalize gambling, doubling down on his long-held opposition to the idea.
  • He left the door open to legislation that would allow the in-state cultivation of medical marijuana, echoing a stance he adopted on the campaign trail. "I sympathize and empathize with them on that issue, and I support research-based expansion," he said. "Thankfully, there is some research that's going on in this field that will give us some good data that will kind of tell us how to move forward."
  • The governor repeated his support for a paper-based voting system with a verifiable audit trail, and said he hopes the $150 million he included in his budget plan to replace outdated voting machines are used for those devices. "I'm definitely supportive of a paper-based system, a verifiable paper audit trail. I've said that all along," he said. "There are some people who want strictly paper. I have reservations with that. But it's got to go through the legislative process."
  • Kemp said he has little appetite to change laws that make it harder for state elections officials to cancel voter registrations for people who don't often cast ballots, saying he viewed those rules as protecting the sanctity of the ballot. "We're following the law, keeping the voter rolls secure now. Everybody calls it a purge, but when people move out of the state, they don't need to be on our voting rolls if they're living somewhere else. That's how you get double voting," he said."There's a reason you need to keep your rolls up to date and secure. I support that. If there's going to be tweaks, there's always legislation with elections. We've had plenty over the years. I personally think the state needs to keep following federal law and keep our voter rolls secure."