Perhaps you’ve heard that the Kansas Legislature is considering the idea of giving gyms a big tax break. I’m all for it, so long as they also give that tax break to newspapers.
The argument, as I understand it, is that for-profit gyms are forced to compete with non-profits like the YMCA or the government itself. Neither of those entities has to pay property tax.
Therefore, the argument goes, the state ought to exempt gyms from those taxes so as to level the playing field. The latest version of that concept, which the president of the state senate supported in a speech earlier this week, has expanded to include ambulance services, child care centers, businesses dealing with entertainment, exercise and recreation, and restaurants, — – so long as there is at least one governmental facility competing with the business in the same county. Certain entities would also be exempt from sales taxes, among other bill provisions.
I say, tongue planted firmly in cheek: Great! Let’s keep that train rolling!
News organizations like ours compete with the government and with non-profits in a wide variety of ways.
Meanwhile, like gyms, we provide a service that is actually good. Gyms can argue that they make people healthier and stronger, and that’s true – but we can argue that we provide a service necessary to the proper functioning of representative government. That goes back to the early days of the country, and it explains why the founders created the First Amendment to the Constitution.
So, gimme gimme gimme!
I’m being facetious. I don’t think our for-profit business here should be exempt from property tax. I think we should pay our fair share of taxes. I also think gyms – and entertainment businesses, and restaurants, and child care centers, and any other for-profit business – should also pay property tax.
My point in making the argument is that if you’re going to pick out businesses to which you’re going to hand out tax breaks, the line is going to get awfully long. I can make at least as strong a pitch as gyms.
I know and respect Rodney Steven, the owner of the Genesis chain of gyms that originated this concept. He’s not entirely wrong here – when the government or non-profits compete with you, it feels fundamentally unfair. There’s not an easy answer to that problem, but Mr. Steven is doing what makes the most sense, and that’s to provide a service that wins in the marketplace. His gyms are nice, and his business practices seem to be succeeding.
Likewise, we in the news business simply have to provide a service for which customers are willing to pay. Truth is, if we have to rely on tax breaks or government handouts, we’re fundamentally unsustainable.