Washington state official wants to tax newspapers as polluters

The Columbian | The Seattle Times

The director of Clark County, Washington’s Environmental Services department wants to impose a “special fee for newspapers printed in the county” as part of a plan to raise revenue to help pay for a settlement the county incurred for Clean Water Act violations.

Don Benton, who directs the department, is also a Republican state senator who “has voiced dissatisfaction with news coverage about him,” Tyler Graf reports in The (Vancouver, Washington) Columbian.

Benton in January 2013. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

When asked by Sunrise O’Mahoney, the executive director of the Vancouver Watersheds Alliance, why he wanted to target newspapers, Benton “said he was merely listening to his department managers, who came up with a number of ideas during a brainstorming session,” Graf writes.

Emails the Columbian got as part of a public records request tell a different story, Graf writes: “Benton told two managers in January that a county commissioner was interested in charging polluters, including newspapers, directly. The email predated the department’s brainstorming session.”

Benton in March proposed a $150,000 per year fee that would apply only to The Columbian, which has “reported aggressively on Benton’s business background, his questionable job qualifications and recently revealed he was being paid for his county work even while in Olympia for the legislative session,” Jim Brunner reported in The Seattle Times in March.

The Columbian’s publisher told reporter Tyler Graf he’ll fight any such fee. “If I receive a bill for $150,000,” [Scott] Campbell said, “I doubt I’ll pay it.”

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