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House Bill 337 could exempt sales tax from college textbooks

A new bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives could save students dozens of dollars each year on textbooks.

Ohio House Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Columbus, first presented Ohio House Bill 337 in September. House Bill 337 would exempt textbooks from Ohio’s sales tax, which has inflated 1,000 percent since 1977. 

“(Textbook prices are) not simply just getting more expensive because everything’s getting more expensive,” Duffey said. “We don’t charge sales tax on tuition, but we do on books, and so there’s an incongruity there. It’s not philosophically consistent.”

The bill is now in the hands of the House chair and the speaker of the House, meaning that it will be referred to a committee and then voted on at a future hearing. 

Although other representatives support the bill, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio recently announced its opposition to the tax exemption. The association would be affected by the change because some of the money from those taxes goes to Ohio counties. 

The bill would cost the state about $30 million every two years, which is a “drop in the bucket” for a budget of $72 billion, Duffey said. Routinely, the state exceeds expenditures by a revenue of $30 million.

"We can afford it," Duffey said. "It’s a question of priorities."

Duffey has been working with the Ohio Faculty Council for the past couple years in an effort to address the cost of textbooks. With the proposal of House Bill 337, faculty senates around the state have been asked to endorse the bill.

Ohio University Faculty Senate passed a resolution unanimously supporting the bill at its February meeting.

“I think the cost on students of education is too high. I’m not sure the taxes you spend on textbooks are a major cost of that but sure, I’ll support it,” Faculty Senator John Cotton said. “I think there’s obviously larger issues and this doesn’t solve the affordability of college, but it’s not a bad idea.”

At the state level, there are numerous efforts for decreasing the costs of a college education.

Ohio Faculty Council is working with Duffey on five different ideas this year to make textbooks more affordable. One of the other efforts is called inclusive access, in which students could have the option of purchasing textbooks through mass orders by the university.

“Part of the reason the publishers are willing to do this is (because) publishers don't get money when a used book is sold, so if you say to them, ‘I can get you 90 percent of the students to buy this particular textbook,’ then they’re willing to negotiate a cheaper price,” Duffey said. 

Textbooks now cost about $1,500 per year, or about 10 percent of the average cost for tuition at public colleges in Ohio, Duffey said.

“Every little bit counts,” Miranda Ewell, a freshman studying media arts and studies, said. “I try to buy used books, but sometimes access codes are still expensive.” 


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