Ill. bill aims to drop 5% sales tax from textbook sales

CARBONDALE, Ill. (U-WIRE) – Paisley Harper said she spent nearly $300 on textbooks this semester.

Though some students may have paid more, and some less, a bill in the Illinois state legislature could make textbook purchases a little lighter on students’ wallets.

“I paid $500 last semester, and $200 of it was just for one class,” said Harper, a sophomore from Chicago studying business.

Illinois Senate Bill 327 – which is scheduled to go before the Senate Revenue Committee Thursday – would make textbook purchases exempt from Illinois’ 5 percent sales tax. In Harper’s case, the nearly $40 she paid in sales tax the past two semesters could be saved in the future.

“I’m very excited about this,” said TyJuan Cratic, a senior from Chicago studying political science and law. “I think it could potentially mean a lot. It’s something that a lot of students have been working towards.”

Cratic started the Facebook group “The Progressive Campaign” – a student group advocating for the bill.

The group has attracted 276 members from across the state and encourages concerned students to contact their state legislators to support the bill. On the group’s Facebook page, students can find some state senators’ phone numbers and talking points to be used when leaving a message.

SIUC’s Undergraduate Student Government has also passed a resolution authored by Cratic that encourages state legislators to support the bill.

“I’m using that resolution as a template to get in touch with a lot of colleges around the state,” Cratic said.

He said he hopes other student senates will pass similar resolutions.

If the bill passes, the impact on the local economy would be minimal. The bill would only remove the 5 percent sales tax that goes to the state, said Kevin Baity, assistant city manager for economic development.

City and county sales taxes, which total 1.25 percent, would remain, he said.

Local bookstores should only be affected by a slight clerical change. The reduction in prices would only be coming from a sales tax, which does not go to the store, said Randy Johnson, general manager of 710 Bookstore. Students cannot start celebrating just yet, though. Even if the bill were passed by the Senate, it would still have to pass through the house to be signed by the governor.

Baity said since the language of the bill identifies July 1 as the date the new provision would go into effect the bill will most likely have to be rewritten and the whole process repeated if it is not signed by the governor at that point.

“If this is something that students are in favor of, they need to make their voice heard,” he said.

Fight Club, a student group started by USG senators to help air students’ concerns, has identified textbook prices as one of 14 issues it will work on in the group’s recent “Southern at 140” plan. The plan is meant to address issues that are important to students in the short term, and is a response to the larger-scale development plan “Southern at 150.”

Fight Club co-founder Matt Picchietti said it is important to look at the big picture.

“This is the first step that has to happen to start moving towards making textbooks less about business and more about education,” Picchietti said.

Cratic said the bill is indeed the first step. There are two other bills, Illinois Senate Bills 325 and 326, that will eventually need to be advocated for, he said.

SB325 would require schools to set up textbook advisement committees to craft and enact policies regarding textbooks. The other bill, SB326, would require manufactures to disclose wholesale prices and a history of revisions made to textbooks so professors could better assess when updating to new editions is necessary.

“We’re keeping our eyes and ears open for what else can be done,” Picchietti said. “But it’s going to be a slow process, and again, this is the first step.”