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Newspaper tax break passes WA House and Senate

by REBECCA PETTINGILL
Staff Writer | April 18, 2023 5:31 PM

OLYMPIA – Senate Bill 5199, a measure that gives a tax break for newspaper publishers, passed the Washington House of Representatives 89-7 Monday. It now awaits the signature of Gov. Jay Inslee.

“The passage of Senate Bill 5199 shows the importance of newspapers in our local communities,” said Bob Richardson, regional general manager of Hagadone Media – Washington, which publishes the Columbia Basin Herald. “We strive to be the voice of the people in our communities and this allows us to continue to do that well into the future.”

SB 5199 reduces the business and occupations tax rate to 0% for newspaper publishing and for news websites that are the successors to newspapers that were published prior to Jan. 1, 2008. The tax break is only effective for 10 years, beginning on Jan. 1, 2024 and there will be a study done to examine the effect of the tax reduction, according to a statement by Rowland Thompson, Executive Director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington. The bill was sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), and the House companion bill by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle). Mullet and Pollet are the former and current chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee, which did the tax study enabling the bill.

The bill passed the Senate 47-1, with the only opposition from Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn).

Fortunato said he voted no because it was an insignificant tax break compared to other tax relief bills in the legislature this session, such as three pieces of tax break legislation for seniors that Fortunato, who sponsored them, said didn’t even get a hearing.

“Think about this: $70 billion dollars is what we spend, give or take a few billion, and the only tax break they passed was for newspapers,” said Fortunato. “Otherwise it’s insignificant. That's the only tax break out of $70 billion?”

SB 5199 also passed the House Monday, 89-7. Last step in the process is for Inslee to sign the bill into law.

The bill was requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and endorsed by State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti as a necessary reduction of state funds, the release stated.

“As government watchdogs, newspapers are essential to our democracy, and for that reason, I applaud passage of SB 5199,” said Fred Obee, Executive Director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. “Not only do newspapers keep the public informed and elected officials honest, they connect merchants to their essential market and people to each other. We must do all we can to support local, vetted information if we are to move forward with a clear purpose and faith in our decision making.”

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