Newspaper tax bill fails in Virginia state house committee

VIRGINIA — State legislators voted down a bill Wednesday that would have imposed a 1 cent tax on most publications distributed in the state, although it is likely the bill will be proposed again in the future.

The bill would have instituted the tax upon “each newspaper, magazine, newsletter, or other publication issued daily or regularly at average intervals not exceeding three months.” It was rejected by members of the House of Delegates’ finance committee in an untallied voice vote.

Initially the bill did not exempt non-profit publications, such as student newspapers, but an amendment said that such publications would not have been affected. Still, the legislation could have been interpreted to apply to independent student publications that do not have formal non-profit status.

There was never an intention to tax such publications, said Bill Barnes, an administrative aide to Del. Leo Wardrup, (R-Virginia Beach), who proposed the bill. Instead, the focus was on larger, commercial papers of the state, he said.

“They’re a business, right? Why shouldn’t they pay the same business tax as everybody else?” Barnes asked.

Del. Mark Cole, (R-Fredericksburg), a member of the finance committee who voted against the bill, said the group is generally wary of implementing tax increases without a strong rationale.

“It tends to take a hard look at any tax increase,” Cole said. “I don’t think the patron was able to justify a reason.”

This is the fourth year the bill has been proposed in the legislature, but it is the first time it has made it past a finance subcommittee. Barnes said he anticipates the bill will be proposed again, but he said it was too soon to know if any changes would be made to the legislation.

By Brian Hudson, SPLC staff writer

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