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California lawmakers are working on a new plan that would ask mobile phone users to pay a fee for texting.

California lawmakers are working on a new plan that would ask mobile phone users to pay a fee for texting, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

What’s going on: The plan would specifically ask text messaging users to pay taxes that would fund programs intended to help low-income residents afford cellphone access.

The California Public Utilities Commission will vote on the proposal next month.

The plan might also retroactively charge people for texts they sent in the last five years, Fox News reports.

Reactions: Critics have slammed the idea.

  • “It’s a dumb idea,” Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council business group, told the San Jose Mercury News. “This is how conversations take place in this day and age, and it’s almost like saying there should be a tax on the conversations we have.”
  • Rufus Jeffress, vice president of the Bay Area Council, told the San Francisco Bay Area's KNTV-TV the bill would cost the public $220 million total for text taxes.
  • Other business groups say the charges could cost wireless phone users $44 million a year, FOX11 Los Angeles reports.
  • These groups worry that carriers would be at a disadvantage since people would just use apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp so they won’t be charged fees, according to Fox News.

Bigger picture: The California Public Utilities Commission report said the Public Purpose Program budget has risen more than $300 million from 2011 to 2017, even though revenue from telecommunications has dropped about $5 million.

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  • The report said adding the texting surcharge will increase revenue, which would allow the program’s budget to rise and help low-income Americans buy phone service.
  • “From a consumer’s point of view, surcharges may be a wash, because if more surcharge revenues come from texting services, less would be needed from voice services,” said CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon in a statement, according to the Mercury News. “Generally, those consumers who create greater texting revenues may pay a bit more, whereas consumers using more voice services may pay less.”