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Editorial: Dayton wants to tax your newspaper

Published 9:19am Friday, March 1, 2013

One particular issue during this legislative session we feel our readers should be concerned about is a proposal by Gov. Mark Dayton to apply the sales tax to newspapers.

Presently, when person buys the weekday Albert Lea Tribune at a store, a copy costs 50 cents, not the price plus sales tax. It is 50 cents because we at the Tribune have worked hard at keeping the price paid by the newspaper consumer at the same level for years. But it also is that price because newspapers receive an exemption from sales taxes, as lawmakers over the decades have deemed the news to be vital to knowing what is happening with your various levels of government.

A tax would be like politicians telling their voters that they want them to be uninformed. Sound familiar? Too often government leaders don’t want the people to have access to information, or they want to make it more difficult to acquire information.

Another few cents per copy doesn’t seem like much, but consider the cost for people getting subscriptions for a year. It jacks up their price substantially.

And it will make newspapers the only news source to face a tax. Radio, TV and websites aren’t subject to sales taxes, yet no one would deny that newspapers cover local governments more than the other types of media.

For instance, at the meetings of the Albert Lea City Council, there sits reporter Sarah Stultz, watching the entire meeting. If there is an issue, TV crews will stop by for a few quotes at the start and then take off. They can tell you the big issues, but — for example — they won’t list for you all the streets that will get resurfaced this summer. Only the newspaper gives you that.

Sure, it can be said that other kinds of media sold in stores get taxed, such as music recordings, books and software, but those forms don’t you news about your very community. Books might be local, and they might look back on news, but they don’t provide news. That’s because to be considered news, a media outlet must provide a quick turnaround in an effort to inform you — the voting public.

No kind of media consumer votes more than a newspaper reader. And now Gov. Dayton wants you to pay a tax for that, too.

His campaign promise was to balance the state budget by taxing the wealthy. He won the election, and indeed he plans to tax the wealthy, but he apparently forgot to mention during the campaign that he plans to tax everybody else, too.

We urge you to speak to your legislators. Tell them you deserve access to information about your community and local government without being taxed. The Legislature has the power to stop Dayton’s budget plans.