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Bill 1160 to exempt textbook tax

Matt Thompson , Staff Reporter - February 6, 2013

Local legislator Rep. Judy Warnick has reintroduced a bill to make university-required textbooks exempt from sales tax.

“If there is something we can do to help encourage people to stay in college, we’ll do it,” Warnick said.

Warnick believes that by eliminating the sales tax on textbooks, Washington students could collectively save up to $36 million.

The $36 million saved by students would also be a loss of tax revenue for the state but Warnick believes that that loss would not be significant.

“We want to balance the budget but a tax exemption of $36 million is not as large as if it was $36 billion,” Warnick said. “But it would still mean more to college students than balancing our budget on the state level.”

The bill has gained support from both sides of the state House of Representatives, which Warnick believes is the acknowledgement by her colleagues of the rising costs of tuition.

“Anything that we can do to cut the cost of going to college is what we are trying to work on.” said Rep. Larry Seaquist, higher education committee chair.

Central Washington University students have seen their tuition rise 28 percent over the last two academic school years, hitting them hard in the wallet.

Central tuition was $5,577 in the 2010-11 academic year and has increased to the current rate of $7,248 according to Central’s office of public affairs.

The Washington state sales tax rate is currently 6.5 percent and the local Ellensburg sales tax is 1.5 percent equally a total of 8 percent.

A student planning to take accounting 346 will have to spend $254, not including sales tax, on a new copy of the book “Individual Income Tax.”

The sales tax alone on that book would come out to little over $20.

According to a 2005 study by the United States Government Accountability Office, the costs of textbooks since 1986 had increased by 186 percent which was double the rate of inflation.

“As a professor I know that students pay inordinate sums for some of these biology and math books and even law books,” Rep. Matt Manweller said. “We wanted to do whatever we could to bring those costs down.”

Some students, however, feel that this bill will do little for them and would be addressing the wrong issue.

“The costs of going to college will still be incredible,” Sam Grady, environmental studies senior, said. “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.”

Central political science professor and 13th district representative Matt Manweller, is cosponsoring the house bill and said he will propose an amendment to the bill to expand the sales tax exemption to other local businesses not located on campus. By allowing businesses like Jerrol’s Books and Supply co. to be covered by this exemption, Manweller believes that this will protect their right to be competitive.

This will be the second introduction of this bill; the first was in 2007 during what Warnick believes were less opportunistic times fiscally to pass a tax exemption.

The bill must be accepted by chair of the finance committee before it will receive a hearing by the entire house.

Then if passed by the house a companion bill will be proposed in the state senate.

Wildcat Shop textbook supervisor, Lewis Clark, believes that this bill would be a good thing for students financially.

“It may not be significant but students will save money,” Clark said. “It all adds up.”

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