State Sen. Jim Wilson (D) argues that the tax exemption for newspapers should be repealed in order to give Oklahoma teachers unpaid bonuses. The state made an agreement to pay teachers $5,000 per year if they became Nationally Board Certified, Wilson said in a statement. But an exemption allowed the state to withhold the bonuses if the money isn't available. Taxing newspapers and magazines, he argues, will raise the $17 million needed to pay the bonuses. So Wilson on Monday submitted a bill to repeal the tax exemption.
"We need to get our priorities straight," he said in a statement. "I believe it's much more important to keep our promises to these educators than to provide sales tax exemptions for newspapers."
That sounds all well and good. But Oklahoma Press Association Executive Vice President Mark Thomas tells the Tulsa World that the sales tax isn't likely to add up to $17 million. He estimated it would raise more like $2 million. Moreover, he said the tax would hurt newspapers. "The power to tax is the power to destroy," he said. Thomas was traveling Thursday and did not immediately return TPM's request for comment.
The Oklahoma Tax Commission stands by the $17 million estimate. The group's Communications Director Paula Ross told TPM that that estimate was reached in 2010. A new estimate will be released within a few weeks, she said. "We'll get as much information as possible and we'll go from there."
Sen. Wilson's office did not return TPM's requests for comment.