Should California have a "robot tax?"
A California lawmaker has launched an initiative to get the state to tax companies that replace humans with robots.
San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim said the plan -- called the Jobs of the Future Fund -- would help offset the threat of job-killing robots.
"We are exploring ways of implementing a pay roll tax, which already exists on jobs operated by humans, and continuing that if those jobs are then displaced by robots, or algorithms or automation," Kim told ABC10. "Whether it is truck drivers, clerks, assistants, even lawyers and accountants we are seeing that there are a great number of tasks and jobs that could potentially be displaced by automation over the next ten to fifteen years and as policy makers it’s incumbent on us to be prepared for this future."
The amount the companies would be taxed has not been announced, but Kim said the money the state gets from taxes would go towards retraining and education programs to help those left without jobs.
Not everyone is on board with the idea.
Sanjay Varshney, a Professor of Finance at Sac State, said a "robot tax" is an overreaction and could be harmful to the state.
"If you start taxing businesses for the use of robots and artificial intelligence, you’re not just going to drive them out from the state, you’re going to make it a huge disincentive for them to be anywhere in the state of California," Varshney explained, "Because they can find other parts of the country and other parts of the world where they don’t have to pay such a tax."
The idea for a "robot tax" is not new. Bill Gates proposed one earlier this year. It also drew skepticism from economists.
Kim, however, says there is no evidence that businesses are deterred from California because of taxes and plans to continue with her initiative. She hopes that sometime in the near future the California State Legislature takes up the issue.