Lunch Links: France vs. Britain on Corporate Taxes; Alaska Governor Proposes Sales Tax; DC Postpones Paid Leave Bill

July 12, 2016

Today is July 12, the date in 1934 when Louisiana's Huey Long pushed through a 2 percent gross receipts tax on newspapers with a circulation of more than 20,000, what he termed a “tax on lying” but what everyone else understood was an attack on critical press coverage. The 13 largest newspapers sued, and it went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, on February 10, 1936, the tax was struck down in Grosjean v. American Press Co., with Justice George Sutherland writing a masterful defense of freedom of the press.

On the tax, he wrote for the Court: “The tax here involved is bad not because it takes money from the pockets of the appellees. If that were all, a wholly different question would be presented. It is bad because, in the light of its history and of its present setting, it is seen to be a deliberate and calculated device in the guise of a tax to limit the circulation of information to which the public is entitled in virtue of the constitutional guaranties. A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves.”

Here are some interesting links I came across:

  • France Trolls Britain on Corporate Tax Cut: While Britain considers lowering its corporate tax rate to help it stay competitive after it leaves the European Union, France’s Finance Minister says such a tax cut just might jeopardize negotiations over Britain’s access to clients in the EU. (Reuters)
  • Clinton Doesn’t Support Carbon Tax: While the Democratic party platform includes a call for pricing greenhouse gases, Hillary Clinton’s energy advisor says the candidate does not support it. (Associated Press)
  • Alaska Governor Proposes Sales Tax: Alaska is one of five states with no statewide sales tax (I remember with the acronym NOMAD—New Hampshire, Oregon, Montana, Alaska, Delaware), but not if Gov. Bill Walker (I) gets his way. He wants a 3 percent state sales tax as part of his efforts to raise revenue after the drop in oil prices. He had earlier proposed a state income tax but that went nowhere. (Alaska Dispatch News)
  • California Launches Vehicle Mileage Tax Test: 5,000 volunteers will report their driving miles to the state and pay a 1.8 cent per mile mileage tax instead of the gasoline tax. Different methods are being tried: unlimited use pass, buying a block of miles, a plug-in device that records actual use, and taking a photo of odometers. After growing steadily since forever, total miles driven in the U.S. has been essentially flat since 2004, and better gasoline mileage means there has been a real-terms drop in gasoline tax revenues. (Sacramento Bee / State Smart Transportation Initiative)
  • DC Postpones Paid Leave Bill Until Fall: Councilmembers will have time to find the balance between costs of the program with keeping the District competitive with neighboring Virginia and Maryland. The original concept was 16 weeks of paid leave funded by a 1 percent payroll tax, but that would have produced a gap of several hundred million dollars. (Washington City Paper)
  • Corporate Tax Event on Thursday: The Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, is hosting an all-day event on corporate tax reform this Thursday starting at 9 a.m. (Tax Policy Center)

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