TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said she wants to eliminate the sales tax on food items in Kansas.
She held an “Axe the Food Tax” news conference Monday morning inside a Topeka Dillon’s store. She wants Kansas lawmakers to support getting rid of the sale tax on food products sold at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and anywhere grocery food items are sold.
According to Kelly, getting rid of the tax on food will save a family of four more than $500 a year.
The governor said Kansas is one of only seven states in the nation that fully tax groceries. She said the Kansas tax on food is the second-highest in the nation, and that, when local sales tax is added in, it is the highest in the nation.
Kelly’s plan is focused on eliminating the state food sales tax. She said she believes in local control, so the food sales tax for cities and counties would not be affected.
“Thanks to the fiscally responsible decisions we made before and during the pandemic, we can cut the food sales tax and keep Kansas’ budget intact,” Kelly said.
She said this was a promise she made during her election campaign and one she intends to keep.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is running for governor in 2022, said Kelly failed to deliver on her campaign promise on this issue. He issued a statement Friday, calling on the legislature to “eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, the sales tax on groceries during its 2022 session.”
“Cutting the grocery sales tax has had bipartisan support since long before Laura Kelly was governor,” Schmidt said in a statement. “It’s true that she campaigned on this in 2018, and it’s also true that three years into her administration she has completely failed to deliver on that promise. Now more than ever with the cost of living increasing at record-levels because of the reckless spending in DC, we need a governor who will get the job done for Kansas families, not just make campaign speeches.”
While estimates for the cost of Kelly’s plan are still underway, the governor said it could cost about $450 million per year.
Some people said it’s an investment worth making. Ron Shirrell from Topeka said he’s noticed the spike in food costs during the pandemic and is pleasantly surprised by the governor’s move.
“I’ve never had a thought about [the food sales tax] until my daughter moved to Pennsylvania, and they don’t have it,” Shirrell said. “And I thought, ‘If they can do it, why can’t we?”
Dianna Martin, who shops for a family of 5, said food can get expensive, especially now. She described her grocery bill as “through the roof.”
“I think it’s good that she’s cutting the sales tax because it’s going to help boost the economy,” Martin said. “It’s going to bring prices down, hopefully.”
According to KC Healthy Kids, a non-profit organization in Kansas City, ending the food sales tax will support the food retail industry – specifically rural grocery stores, and it could increase grocery retail in Kansas, growing the state and local economies.
Kelly’s bill will be introduced during the 2022 Legislative session. She is asking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to get a clean bill through the legislature. The governor said if lawmakers pass it so she can sign it, the changes could go into effect as soon as July of 2022.