Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Tax break for local news taken out of House Democrats' bill, leaving Senate as last hope; newspaper lobby seeks help

The proposed tax break for paying local journalists is no longer in Democrats' "Build Back Better" bill pending in Congress, says lobbying group America’s Newspapers, which has been spearheading the effort with other leading news-media groups.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was removed "as the White House and Congress sought compromise language that would meet President Biden’s objectives and calls for a significantly reduced price tag, the group said. "While there is still an opportunity to get the LJSA back in the reconciliation bill, there are many competing interests and not enough money to go around."

The tax break is estimated to cost $1 billion, "tiny compared to big ticket items like clean energy and child care," writes Rick Edmonds of The Poynter Institute. "Even with bipartisan support and 78 co-sponsors, however, it fell in the category of a lesser priority when crunch time came . . . That leaves the Senate, where the bill was late getting sponsors and has not passed, as the best hope."

The proposed tax credit would pay half the salary of local journalists earning up to $50,000 for one year and 30% of salary for four subsequent years.

"That money would provide big and timely help after advertising declines during the pandemic, which worsened already shaky finances for newspapers and some digital startups," Edmonds writes. "Its passage would be a precedent, breaking through the American tradition of First Amendment concerns that government and journalism enterprises should be kept entirely separate. (Subsidies for news are common elsewhere in the world)."

America's Newspapers asked "members who are able to help with a last-minute push of the bill" to contact their members of Congress, "particularly if they are a Senate co-sponsor of the LJSA," and ask them to let Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "know how important it is to include the LJSA in the reconciliation bill."

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