Democrats Kill Sen. McKinney’s Repeal of Newspaper Tax

March 27, 2003

An amendment offered by state Senator John McKinney, R-Fairfield, to repeal the newly formed tax on newspaper sales was narrowly defeated mainly along party lines yesterday in the state Senate. According to Sen. McKinney, the 6 percent tax increase that goes into effect on April 1st would be more of a nuisance than anything else. He added that the tax would raise minimal revenue for the state and could be detrimental for smaller weekly newspapers.

“Having to pay an additional 3-cents on a 50-cent newspaper is nothing short of a nuisance for consumers and small businesses alike,” said Sen. McKinney. Estimates indicate that the tax will take in between $3.5-$5 million this year in an adjusted budget that is expected to produce a $47.8 million surplus. “While I certainly understand the current economic climate we’re in, we can afford to get this frivolous tax off the books,” said Sen. McKinney.

The tax on the sale of newspaper subscriptions and the tax from newsstand sales have been exempted since 1991 and 1998 respectively. The reinstatement of the tax was part of the $650 million deficit reduction plan that was passed last month by the legislature. Sen. McKinney voted against that measure which made increases to a number of taxes including a large increase to the state’s income tax.

Sen. McKinney said that he was troubled that there was not more support for his amendment that failed by an 18-15 margin. “Not removing the tax on newspapers is a clear indication that the majority party is more concerned with raising taxes than providing smart fiscal policy. After all, the people this tax hurts the most are the small business owners and consumers at the lower income levels.”

“Our daily and weekly newspapers are an indispensable part of our democracy. Given the intense competition from 24-hour cable news stations as well as radio, which are not subject to sales tax, this tax will put newspapers at a competitive disadvantage,” said Sen. McKinney. He also said that while it might be a bit of a stretch, taxing newspapers is “as close as we can get” to placing a tax on the First Amendment.

“Rather than looking at how much money we can bring in, we should be looking at the possible ramifications of this taxation,” said Sen. McKinney. “The reason newspapers were exempted from this tax in the first place isn’t just because paying an extra 3 cents is inconvenient, it’s because we need to keep news affordable for everyone.”