Utah legislature looks to cut textbook tax

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    By TERESSA GENETTI-SCOTT

    A new bill slated for the 1999 Utah Legislature may cut a few dollars off students’ textbook totals.

    The bill would do away with sales tax on college textbooks and would cost an estimated $1.1 million in tax revenue loss.

    Students at Utah’s nine public colleges and universities would benefit from the bill. BYU and other private schools in the state already qualify for textbook tax exemption.

    In a Salt Lake Tribune article, Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, D-Salt Lake City, said the language of the bill has not been drafted. He said he is awaiting legislative analysts’ projections for the potential tax-revenue losses.

    “If it’s not going to impact [tax revenues] a great deal, then I think it’s definitely something we need,” said Bourdeaux, who is sponsoring two other education bills during the 1999 Legislative session.

    Cathy Rakisitis, director of Utah Valley State College Bookstore, said because UVSC has no on-campus housing her store sells mostly textbooks. Last year the store sold $3.2 million dollars in textbooks, accounting for 80 percent of the store’s total sales. Cutting the sales tax would trim about $228,000 in tax revenue at UVSC alone.

    Rakisitis said she favors the cut as long as the state doesn’t charge students through the backdoor.

    “I would hate to see the sales tax money being taken away, and then, for whatever reason, have the student’s tuition go up $30 to $40. If they are going to take it off they need to make sure it’s not assessed to the students in any other way,” she said.

    Rakisitis said the average cost for a textbook is about $60. She said students can be required to purchase two or three textbooks for one class.

    “It is not uncommon for students to spend up to $300 for textbooks in one semester,” said Rakisitis, who said the average student at UVSC would save about $30 to $40 a semester if the bill passed.

    Megan Anderson, a sophomore accounting major at UVSC, said textbook costs are already painfully high for students in business and science majors, where each book can cost upwards of $75.

    “The more books you buy, the more tax you pay. It’s like you’re being punished for working harder,” said Anderson, who works part-time to pay for college.

    Chip Romney, a sophomore at UVSC majoring in generals, said he spent about $150 on books for three classes at the beginning of the fall semester.

    “I think it would be a great help because books are so expensive, especially if you need three books for one class. When a book costs $60, your looking at a lot of money,” Romney said.

    Spencer Whipple, a freshman studying generals at UVSC, said he spent $200 on textbooks in his first semester of college. Whipple said he sold his car over the summer to help pay for school.

    “Books get to be a big chunk of his expenses,” he said.

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