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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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ASUU pushes to nix textbook sales tax

By Rochelle McConkie

Students might be able to save some cash when buying books if the Utah State Legislature approves a bill to cut sales tax on college textbooks.

In an attempt to curb the rising costs of education, Associated Students of the University of Utah is putting forward a bill that calls for a statewide sales tax exemption for textbooks.

“With the cost of textbooks going up twice the rate of inflation, every time you go back to the bookstore it seems like your books are getting more expensive,” said Marko Mijic, ASUU government relations director. “(With this bill), students will see an effect.”

The bill would eliminate sales tax on any required publication for all Utah colleges and universities, both public and private. Legislators will consider the bill during their spring session.

Currently, there are two tax cuts applicable to higher education in Utah — one involving college athletic events and the other school and fundraising sales — but students don’t directly see cost savings from either of them, Mijic said.

Without the 6.85 percent sales tax, students would save about $62 each year on textbooks. This number is based on a national average that shows students spending $900 each year on textbooks.

If the bill passes, Utah students would save an estimated $4.7 million in 2008, and U students would save about $650,000 annually.

Representative Greg Hughes, R-Draper, is sponsoring the bill. ASUU leaders and U administrators said Hughes’ influence in the Legislature will likely help the bill pass. Hughes acts as chair of the House Education Committee as well as the Conservative Caucus, an influential group of Republican representatives.

Hughes said the bill has a chance of passing, but it will be difficult. Legislators will be concerned about narrowing the tax base by eliminating the textbook tax, which could cause other taxes to climb in order to compensate, Hughes said.

Kim Wirthlin, the U’s associate vice president for government relations, said the state budget forecast will also affect how the bill is received.

“We’re in a fairly good position — we’re not seeing as much of a drop like the rest of the country — but the budget surplus will play a big role,” Wirthlin said.

Hughes said he supports the bill because it will increase state tax revenues in the long run.

“Eliminating sales tax through a demographic that will ultimately contribute much more in terms of the tax base is forward thinking,” he said.

Still, Hughes thinks the bill will take a lot of work to pass.

“This bill will truly need to be a grassroots effort to pass,” he said. “It has a lot of merit, but it will take a lot of work from the students.”

ASUU leaders have been visiting every Utah school to get them on board and make the tax exemption a collaborative effort.

“It’s been 100 percent with every school, including BYU,” Mijic said.

Seventeen states already have tax-free textbook policies.

“Given the amount of groundwork, we’re in the best position to move forward,” Wirthlin said.

Three thousand U students have signed a petition in support of the bill. ASUU hopes to get 30,000 students statewide to sign before the legislative session starts. For more information on this petition, visit the ASUU office in the Union.

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