What’s inside governor’s ‘bold new plan’ to ‘Axe the Food Tax’

Politics

Supply chain issues have created shortages of a few items at grocery stores and higher costs overall. (Photo: Getty Images)

TOPEKA, (KSNT) – Governor Laura Kelly today announced plans to introduce a bill in the Kansas Legislature to “Axe the Food Tax,” and eliminate the state sales tax on food in Kansas.

The governor announced the “bold new plan” at a local Dillon’s Food Store in Topeka on Monday.

“I’m pleased to introduce a plan that will ‘Axe the Food Tax’ and end the state sales tax on food,” Gov. Kelly said. “For too long, Kansans have been paying more for groceries than people in almost every other state. This legislation will save the average Kansas family $500 dollars or more a year on their grocery bill; and 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.”

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, D-Kansas, holds axe while announcing “bold new plan” to eliminate the state’s food sales tax. (KSNT/ Rebekah Chung)

Kansas is one of seven states in the nation that fully taxes groceries. Kansas’ food sales tax rate is 6.5%, the second-highest rate in the country. Under the governor’s proposed bill, a Kansas family of 4 will save an average of $500 or more on their grocery bill every year.

“This tax cut will put money back in Kansans’ pockets and create real savings for those who need it most,” Gov Laura Kelly said.

The plan is focused on eliminating the state food sales tax. The Governor said she believes in local control, so the food sales tax for cities and counties wouldn’t be affected.

While estimated for the cost of the plan are still underway, the governor said it could cost about $450 million per year.

Some locals 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.”

Kansas’ high food tax can leave Kansans with less money to spend in their rural grocery stores, hurting employees and local economies. According to KC Healthy Kids, a non-profit organization in Kansas City, ending the food sales tax will also support the food retail industry – specifically rural grocery stores, and it could increase grocery retail in Kansas, growing the state and local economies.

The Governor was joined by several democratic leaders at her announcement, including Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland, Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes, and House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer. The announcement comes

Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a letter to legislative leaders Friday in support of eliminating the food sales tax. However, the governor said that this has been a longstanding focus of her platform.

“This is not something new. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time,” Gov. Kelly said. “Now we have the funds to do this and to sustain this tax cut over the years”

The Governor’s bill will be introduced during the 2022 Legislative session. During Monday’s announcement, Governor Kelly called on lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to get a clean bill through the legislature and onto her desk as quickly as possible.

If passed, the governor said the changes could go into effect as soon as July of 2022.

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