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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon To Start Taxing Prepaid Cellphones

Jeramey Jannene
Prepaid cellphones will now be charged a 75 cent tax to fund 911 services.

Oregon cellphone users who don't have a monthly contract will soon pay a new tax when they refill their minutes. A law that takes effect this month levies a 75 cent transaction tax on prepaid minutes. The money will fund 911 services.

There's a big difference between my wife's cellphone and my cellphone - and it's not just the ringtone.

I'm on one of those two-year contracts. My wife has a prepaid plan.

That means she hasn’t had to pay Oregon's 911 tax, which goes to operate emergency call centers.

People with land lines or cellphones on contract pay 75 cents a month. People with prepaid phones don't pay a penny.

Republican state representative Vicki Berger, who sponsored the measure to change that, says it’s a matter of fairness: "They're using the 911 system. They need to contribute to the 911 system."

Berger says roughly one Oregon cellphone in five is on a prepaid plan.

The new tax will be phased in over the next year. Oregon lawmakers approved it during their February session. The Legislative Revenue Office estimates the change will net an extra million dollars a year.

On the Web:

Oregon HB 4055: