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Solid Opposition: Paid, Free Papers Mend Differences; in Multiple Strategies They Oppose California Sales Tax

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Solid Opposition: Paid, Free Papers Mend Differences; in Multiple Strategies They Oppose California Sales Tax

Article excerpt

Solid opposition

Paid, free papers mend differences; in multiple strategies they oppose California sales tax

The California Newspaper Publishers Association moved quickly last week to heal differences between paid- and free-circulation papers on the issue of a new state sales tax.

At an Aug. 3 board meeting, CNPA directors agreed on a twin-pronged lobbying effort: to restore the sales tax exemption on all newspapers while also supporting Assembly and Senate bills to lift the tax from free papers, which claim the levy will put some of them out of business.

The law, which taxes newspaper sales for the first time since the 1940s, became effective July 15, leaving a tangle of questions on how it will be applied and administered.

The measure raises the sales tax to as high as 8.25% in some areas and is aimed at cutting California's $14.3 billion budget shortfall.

The free papers, most of which use contract printers, say the burden will be greatest on them because they cannot shift the tax on their printing bill to their readers.

William H. Fleet, publisher of the four Los Angeles Independent Newspapers, estimates that free newspapers will be taxed at a rate of at least 400% more than the dailies.

Some free-paper publishers have charged that CNPA and the major dailies did not lobby hard enough to defeat the tax (E&P, July 27, P.9).

CNPA president Jim Gill III seemingly supported the charge at the meeting, saying, "We should have worked with a little more vigor last October."

Gill promised that the association's lobbying to rescind the tax will coordinate with separate lobbying campaigns by some of the major dailies and the California Free Press Association (CFPA).

"Everybody will be asked to assist," Gill declared.

CNPA has contracted with former state legislator Dennis Carpenter to lobby against the tax and represent other CNPA interests in Sacramento.

The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Long Beach Press-Telegram and the McClatchy and Copley groups have hired their own capital lobbyist as has the CFPA.

Jack Fraser, publisher of the Valley Press in Felton, suggested at the board meeting that the lobbying might be too fragmented.

Gill disagreed. "I hope the legislators hear 600 voices to reinstate the tax exemption," he stated. "The message is that we are united--both free and paid newspapers."

The assurance appeared to satisfy two board members who operate free newspapers: Fleet and Ted Fang, publisher of the 231,000-circulation San Francisco Independent, who was recently appointed a director. …

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