by Cyndy Liedtke Hogan
Senator Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) told local officials at the Congressional City Conference that states and localities should be able to collect billions in sales taxes they are already owed for purchases made through the Internet.
Enzi, who said "the toughest job I ever had was when I was mayor" of Gillette, Wyo., said it is time for Congress to pass legislation that allows for the collection of those sales taxes.
He predicted that the bill will pass this year, in part because the movement is now supported by Internet retailer Amazon.
"The Internet is no longer in diapers. The Internet has matured," he said. "It's time for the people making the money from the Internet to collect the dollars."
Enzi emphasized, "This does not tax Internet use or access or raise taxes."
The current system is unfair to traditional merchants who not only collect and pass on sales taxes but also provide jobs in local communities.
Enzi is part of a bipartisan group of 10 senators who introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act. Under the bill, states and localities would have the option of collecting sales and use tax revenues from out-of-state sellers through a new, simplified tax system.
NLC has been a long-time supporter of such legislation.
Enzi encouraged conference attendees to ask their senators to support the bill, stressing the importance of bipartisan cooperation in the effort. He called on local officials to use e-mail and phone, as well as social media like Facebook and Twitter, to get their representatives on board. Once local officials reach out to their senator, they should then report back on what their senator said.
According to Enzi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will bring the bill to the Senate floor once 60 votes are secured.
"If we can get to that level, we can pass it this year. And we have to pass it this year," he said.
Enzi also told local officials that "people have a lot of confidence in you," while they do not have a lot of confidence in Washington.
"All of the people live at the local level and that's what you're taking care of," he said.