Washington State Slashes Taxes For Newspapers; Will Similar Efforts Follow?

imageIt’s not going to be enough by itself to save newspapers, but some governments are nevertheless trying to do their part to help. In Washington State, which lost one of its two Seattle dailies earlier this year, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a 40 percent cut in the state’s tax for newspaper printers and publishers. It should save the industry about $1.5 million a year.

Washington State’s tax cut could trigger similar legislation elsewhere in the U.S. — including in the U.S. Senate. The Senate held hearings earlier this month on the “future of journalism.” And, in late March, U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin, who represents Maryland, introduced the Newspaper Revitalization Act in Congress, which would let newspapers operate as non-profits if they wanted to. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Accepting government help is obviously a little awkward for papers, which fancy themselves as government watchdogs. For instance, Cardin’s bill would forbid papers from making any political endorsements. And in perhaps an indication of the odd situation that government help puts papers in, the Seattle Times, which is likely to benefit the most from the new law, printed only four paragraphs about it on its website.

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