On Monday, Governor Laura Kelly announced her plan to “Axe the Food Tax” and eliminate the state sales tax on food in Kansas, which garnered wide-spread support from a bipartisan coalition of legislators, advocates, and stakeholder groups.

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 Governor Kelly’s proposed bill, state food sales tax would be completely eliminated.

Here’s what they’re saying:

Haley Kottler, Thriving Campaign Director, Kansas Appleseed: “In the breadbasket of the world, no one deserves to experience hunger, yet nearly one in seven Kansans is food insecure. The Kansas food sales tax—the second-highest food sales tax in the nation—has always created a regressive, undue burden for working Kansas families who spend hundreds of dollars each year just in taxes on their groceries. It’s past time for the Kansas Legislature to act. As food prices continue to rise, rural grocery stores continue to struggle, and structural racism continues to shape food policy and outcomes, axing the food sales tax is an investment in Kansas families.” 

Kansas Health Foundation: “The Kansas Health Foundation supports Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal, which would eliminate the state’s sales tax on food and help Kansas families put healthy food on their tables. Kansas has the second-highest sales tax on food in the country (at 6.5%), which has been disproportionately affecting low- and moderate-income families for years. While removing the state’s sales tax on food will help ALL Kansas families, it will benefit our low-income families the most, as they use more of their income on basic needs, like groceries.

United Way of Greater Topeka: “We are excited to see progress on eliminating the food sales tax in Kansas, especially as there appears to be bipartisan support for this change. Eliminating the burden of sales tax on food is a policy change that directly contributes to a strong, healthy and equitable community and state.

This policy change would be in direct agreement with two of our main advocacy priorities:

  • More individuals and families are financially stable.
  • More individuals, families, and neighborhoods have access to healthy foods and beverages and opportunities for physical activity.”

David Jordan, President and CEO of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund: “Kansas’ current tax on groceries is the second highest in the nation. This regressive tax negatively impacts Kansans every time they check out at the grocery store. The Health Fund supports fair tax policy, including Governor Kelly’s plan to ‘Axe the Food Tax.’

I hope policymakers from both sides of the aisle will support this initiative that will put extra money in Kansans’ pockets without diverting resources from other state services or agencies.”

Health Forward Foundation: “Health Forward Foundation is building the future of our region by addressing social and political influencers that cause health injustices, such as access to healthy and whole foods. For years, Kansans have experienced one of the highest sales taxes on food in the country. Currently, Kansas is one of only seven states that fully taxes groceries at the second highest tax rate in the country. 

We support Gov. Kelly’s plan to eliminate the state’s sales tax on food to help every Kansas family afford groceries and put nutritious food on their tables. This plan would save families an average of $500 on their grocery bill every year. Eliminating the state-level food sales tax will have an increased benefit for families with low- and moderate-incomes who experience income inequality by paying a higher share of their income on basic needs like groceries. It’s also a responsible way to deliver for our families without diverting resources from other state services or agencies.  

We encourage lawmakers from both parties to support this policy. By addressing the most pressing issues in our communities, such as food access, we’re improving living conditions for everyone.”

Kansas Action for Children: “With strong revenue projections that could lead to a historic ending balance for the state, now is the time to eliminate the state-level food sales tax. Kansans have experienced one of the highest sales taxes on food in the country for years, a consequence of previous poor state tax policy. Now that Kansas has recovered from that policy and has stable revenue, it’s time to invest in Kansas workers and their families with this commonsense policy that has long had bipartisan support.   

Kansas Action for Children stands in support of Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal, which would help Kansas families put nutritious food on their tables. While the elimination of the state-level food sales tax will help every Kansas family afford groceries, it will have an increased benefit for low- and moderate-income families. Sales taxes worsen income inequality as low-income people must pay a higher share of their income on basic needs like groceries. 

While the plan will be costly, Kansas has been experiencing strong revenues for more than a year. The elimination of the state-level food sales tax, on its own, does not appear to put Kansas in a dangerous fiscal position in the coming years. However, if the elimination of the food sales tax is tainted by the inclusion of expensive and unnecessary tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Kansans, Kansas will move into a precarious fiscal situation. We urge lawmakers to take action on this proposal separately from any other tax proposals that might arise during the legislative session—and do so quickly to lessen uncertainty for small businesses.  

This is a bold proposal, but one that we can afford as long as policymakers make responsible fiscal decisions in other areas. With the anticipated incoming revenue, lawmakers must prioritize equitable and fiscally responsible policy this session, including addressing the food sales tax, allocating funding to the rainy day fund, and eliminating unnecessary transfers to the State General Fund.  

We look forward to working with lawmakers from both parties to eliminate the state-level food sales tax and help Kansans put food on the table.”  

Lynn Rogers, Kansas State Treasurer: “Ending the Food Sales Tax will save the average Kansas family of 4 over $500 a year. That’s more money for groceries, saving for education, affording housing costs, and investing in retirement accounts. Thank you, Governor Kelly, for taking steps to “Axe the Food Tax.”

Kansas’ Food Banks: The Kansas Food Bank, Harvesters—The Community Food Network and the Second Harvest Community Food Bank strongly support Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal to eliminate the sales tax on food in Kansas in the 2022 legislative session.

“We have worked with our partners across the state for years to bring attention to the fact that Kansas has the second highest sales tax on food in the nation,” said Brian Walker, President & CEO of the Kansas Food Bank. “This regressive tax affects every Kansan, but disproportionately affects low-income families who are struggling to meet their basic needs.”

While 10.9% of Americans are food insecure, 12.1% of Kansans (more than 350,000) are food insecure. The food insecurity rate among Kansas children is 17.1%, much higher than the national average of 14.6%. A food sales tax that adds as much as 10% to every Kansan’s grocery bill has a significant impact on the food security of Kansans.

“The food sales tax is one of the most regressive taxes we have,” said Valerie Nicholson-Watson, President & CEO of Harvesters. “Low-income families spend a much larger portion of their income on food so the food sales tax takes the most from those who have the least.”

The elimination of the sales tax on food would also be one of the quickest and easiest ways to put money back in the pockets of every Kansan because it would happen at the cash register on a daily basis.

“Families and seniors on fixed incomes need this tax relief in the checkout line, and that would help our Kansas grocery stores as well,” said Chad Higdon, CEO of Second Harvest Community Food Bank.

ICYMI: The below photos are from Governor Kelly’s shopping trips in Wichita and Leavenworth available for media use: