Kansas gubernatorial candidates push Legislature to eliminate or reduce food sales tax

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TOPEKA — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Attorney General Derek Schmidt are calling on the Legislature to eliminate or reduce the state sales tax on food in Kansas.

Kelly, a Democrat running for re-election, announced Monday she would be introduce a bill to “axe” the sales tax on groceries. Schmidt, the favorite to receive the Republican nomination for governor in next year’s election, sent a letter last week to legislative leaders asking to either eliminate or significantly reduce the same tax.

“For too long, Kansans have been paying more for groceries than people in almost every other state,” Kelly said. “This legislation will save the average Kansas family $500 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.”

Under Kelly’s proposal, a family of four is estimated to save $500 on their grocery bill. Kelly estimated the cost to cut the grocery tax at $450 million.

Kansas is one of seven states with a full tax on groceries, and the state rate of 6.5% is the second highest in the country. At least 37 states levy no sales tax on groceries and six more have reduced grocery taxes.

Grocery prices have been rising across the country with the latest consumer price index showing a 5.4% increase in prices from September 2020 to September 2021.

“If Kansas is to thrive and grow, our public policies must attract, retain and support working families,” Schmidt wrote in the letter to Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe. “Our state must be an affordable place to live, work and raise a family. In light of the state’s current budget situation, carefully constructed tax relief that benefits all Kansans by eliminating or at least significantly reducing the sales tax on groceries is possible, necessary and overdue.”

Schmidt was critical of Kelly for vetoing a 2019 bill that included a one-cent reduction in the sales tax on groceries, among other tax reforms. In vetoing the bill, Kelly argued it would have set the state back to former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies by predominantly providing relief to large, multinational corporations who hoped to evade paying state income taxes on overseas profits.

Kelly said Monday any food sales tax cut measure would need to arrive on her desk without other provisions tacked on.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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