AUGUSTA — Maine residents will have to pay slightly more for newspapers, magazines and other publications, which will be subject to the state’s 5.5 percent sales tax starting Tuesday.
Gov. Paul LePage, who generally opposes all new taxes, pushed to lift the exemption on newspapers and magazines in the last legislative session, arguing that only a handful of states allow them to be tax free.
But some say the new tax — which the state estimates will bring in about $6 million over the next two fiscal years — puts a regulatory burden on newspapers with limited resources and staff while taxing buyers.
The newspaper tax come as Maine’s sales tax rises on Tuesday to 5.5 percent from 5 percent and the meals and lodging tax is boosted to 8 percent from 7 percent. LePage vetoed the state’s $6.3 billion budget because of those increases.
The Republican governor isn’t shy about his distaste for newspapers, once saying that reading one is “like paying somebody to tell you lies” and another time joking that he’d like to blow up the headquarters of the Portland Press Herald, Maine’s largest newspaper, which has raised questions about whether the new taxes were a direct dig at newspapers.
“It was interesting — and I will allow people to make their own judgments — that was the only change in what is taxable in Maine” in LePage’s proposal, said Earl Brechlin, editor of the Mount Desert Islander and president of the Maine Press Association.
“What people I don’t think quite understand is that the governor didn’t impose a tax on newspapers, he imposed a tax on the people of Maine. It’s coming out of their pockets,” Brechlin said.
Brechlin said organizations will likely have to absorb the cost for the taxes on papers bought at vending machines because it will be too costly to change machines to reflect the new price. He said the biggest difference will be felt by customers picking up their paper at a store.
“My heart goes out to the small store retail clerk, that when someone hands them a dollar and starts to walk away tomorrow, they’re going to have to call after them for the last 6 cents,” he said Monday.
LePage’s office said in its January budget proposal that Maine is one of only five states that exempts both magazine and newspaper sales and that the only other products given sales tax exemptions are “necessities of life” products, like medicine.
“The product exemption for publications does not rise to the level of being a necessity,” his office said.