The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

January 25, 2009

Oklahoma Press Association official wary of attempts to tweak state's Open Records Act

Staff and wire reports

OKLAHOMA CITY — A state press official is expressing concern about bills that would impose a tax on readers of newspapers and magazines and tweak the state’s Open Records Act.

As executive vice president of Oklahoma Press Associa-tion, Mark Thomas keeps track of legislation affecting the public’s right to know about the activities of their government.

Removing the sales tax exemption on newspapers, as proposed in a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, comes during a time when newspapers in Oklahoma and nationally are facing tough economic times.

Thomas said there’s a good reason to exempt newspapers from taxation, apart from financial considerations.

“What this bill does is tax people who are trying to read newspapers and magazines to find out what government is doing. We’re opposed to deleting those exemptions,” he said.

He says government, through its paid media staff and Web sites, always provides “a bunch of fluff free,” but people depend on their newspapers to get good information on government actions.

Enid News & Eagle publisher Jeff Funk said taxing newspaper subscriptions is taxing a service, not a product.

“Of course we oppose newspaper subscriptions be-ing singled out as a new source for taxation.

“Newspapers are more of a service than a product. Face it, people don’t purchase the News & Eagle for the paper and ink. They buy it for the information, knowledge, op-inions and shopping advice it contains. So, really, newspapers should remain exempt from sales tax just like the paid advice from your attorney or doctor,” Funk said.

Enid State Rep. Mike Jackson said taxing newspaper subscriptions would be tough to implement.

“When paper’s provide such essential service for our constituents to make sure they know what is happening in the Legislature, the Capitol press corps, as well as the Enid News & Eagle, locally do a good job of keeping people up-to-date and we want to insure that product is affordable,” the Enid Republican said.

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