Governor Elect Dan Malloy sent up a trial balloon to test the political winds for new taxes over the Thanksgiving weekend. One of his new ideas is to look at a tax on newspapers, not exactly a new idea as much as an old idea rejected in the past for good reasons.
Mr. Malloy was endorsed by the Hartford Courant but with this trail balloon in the wind the Courant may be more inclined to tell Mr. Malloy to go fly a kite. This is a bad proposal on many levels and does not show the kind of leadership Connecticut will need going forward.
Newspapers across the nation are facing tough economic times with subscriptions declining and advertisers moving to other media. The internet has significantly changed the way news is delivered and more than ever Americans are looking to other sources for news. The lifeblood the newspaper industry going forward will be local coverage not always available in other media. The last thing newspapers need now is a new tax to pass on to readers.
Hitting the newspapers with a new tax could drive more readers away, reduce jobs and ultimately drive the local newspapers out of business. All of that is bad but there is also another important issue to be addressed one that has long protected the newspaper industry from a tax on every issue sold.
Freedom of the press is a long tradition in this nation, it is an important basic freedom it provides fodder for discourse and information. Once a tax on newspapers is in place there is no question that the line has been crossed and freedom of the press is at risk. Taxes rarely go down once in place, but no one can deny they generally go up. So where is the limit and what is is the impact of a new “tax on news” and why should we all be concerned?
In a State dominated by a single political party the risk is greater for abuse and misuse of tax policy. The press with a tax in place would now operate under a cloud and hidden threat of the hammer of taxation if the powers to be do not approve of the policies, endorsements and opinions expressed in the media. A single penny tax could soon become a nickel, then a dime and soon our freedom of the press is at risk or perhaps our local press will not exist.
Saying no to special interests, reducing the size of government and not kicking the can further down the street with creative accounting are trail balloons Mr. Malloy should consider. Taking more money out of the taxpayers pockets in any form of tax increase will not increase consumer confidence, will not create economic stimulation and will not provide more opportunities in our State.
When the March winds of spring roar into the State of Connecticut the trial balloons will be gone and the winds of change will be upon us as the new budget is debated. There will be plenty of wind and somebody will be told to go fly a kite. Will it be the special interests, or will it be the taxpayers? If want to be prepared you should know kite string is taxable.