ICYMI: Governor Laura Kelly’s “Axe the Food Tax” Plan: What They’re Saying

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly’s plan to Axe the Food Tax continues to garner wide-spread support from Kansans across the state. On Tuesday, January 25, the House Committee on Taxation heard testimony from the public on Governor Kelly’s plan to completely eliminate the state’s sales tax on groceries.

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 zero, and a Kansas family of four could save $500 a year.

At Tuesday’s tax committee hearing, legislators heard a wide range of support for Governor Kelly’s plan from Kansans across the state.

Here’s what they’re saying:

“[This] bill will not only help all Kansans as they save money with each food purchase, but it will also have an additional benefit for many farmers. The provision to extend the elimination of sales tax to all farm products sold at farmers’ markets is a valuable one that will support small farms across the state who sell a variety of farm products. … Removing the burden of sales tax collection from them will help simplify the task of running a successful direct to consumer business for these farmers. This will not only help the farmers and their businesses but provide additional value for communities across Kansas.”

 Tom Buller,
Kansas Rural Center

“A sales tax on necessities, such as groceries, is especially onerous for older and lower income individuals and families who may already be struggling to meet their daily needs. There are 65,000 Kansans 50 and older who were food insecure in 2020 and our state’s existing tax on food likely exacerbates this insecurity. A tax on groceries may require older Kansans to choose between the purchase of food for themselves and their families and other vital necessities, such as prescription drugs or heat.”

–  Glenda DuBoise,
AARP Kansas State Director

“I am here today to ask you to support lowering the Food Sales Tax in the State of Kansas to 0%.

“[Kansans] within a reasonable drive to another State’s supermarket are taking that drive. Taking money out of the State of Kansas. The Retailers near the border are at a distinct disadvantage, many have succumbed to the economic pressure.”

– Jon McCormick,
President and CEO, Retail Grocers Association of Kansas and Missouri

“[This proposal] offers the most sound tax policy for our state. It seeks to rectify our standing comparable to other states. We are set apart and not in a good way. Kansas can do better, and we have to do better!”

– Andy Sanchez,
Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Kansas AFL-CIO

“The “Axe the Food Tax” bill provides sales tax relief for all Kansans from the regressive food sales tax. It is a clean bill and passing it as soon as possible will allow the Department of Revenue to implement these changes and provide relief starting July 1, 2022.”

– Dr. Donna Ginther
Director, Institute for Policy and Social Research at University of Kansas

“Ending the state sales tax on food and food ingredients would help Kansas with low-incomes purchase the food they need, saving families an average of $500 per year. Eliminating the state-level food sales tax has relative benefits for families with low-and moderate-incomes who pay a higher share of their come on basic needs like groceries.”

 Haley Kottler,
Thriving Campaign Director, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

“Eliminating the state sales tax on food would encourage small businesses and grocery stores who struggle to compete with large chains because they have fewer supply resources. If we increase the number of local grocers, we decrease the distance our Kansans need to travel to purchase healthy food. We are surrounded by several states who have no food sales tax. If you are a young family looking for a place to reside the sales tax on food is a liability that Kansas can no longer afford.”

 Susan Jagerson,
Administrator, LiveWell Geary County Food Policy Council

“Advocates at our member programs see every day the devastation that poverty can inflict on a survivor trying to establish themselves in a safe environment.

“Eliminating the sales tax for a basic necessity would go a long way to supporting these victims as they try to rebuild their lives. In a situation where every dollar saved could mean the difference between a survivor providing a safe home to their children or having to return to a potentially lethal environment, we simply cannot afford to keep taxing our citizens for the fundamental things they need to survive.”

 Lindsie Ford,
Public Policy Attorney, KS Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

“[The “Axe the Food Sales Tax” proposal] helps level the playing field for Kansas families, while also bringing Kansas in closer alignment with other states on this issue…. Additionally, as cities located on the border with Missouri, we are keenly aware how much this bill can help protect Kansas grocers currently losing business to Missouri, where the state food sales tax rate is only.”

 Stuart Little,
Little Government Relations

“[The passage of this bill] will assist Kansans in providing more affordable and nutritious foods for their families. … Families experiencing financial challenges are more likely to face excessive stressors that could trigger disruption and need for assistance beyond dealing with food insecurity. Additionally, families involved in the child welfare system and those providing foster and kinship care would benefit from the elimination of the food sales tax.”

 Rachel Marsh,
Executive Director, Children’s Alliance of Kansas

“The current COVID 19 pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of many working families across Kansas who have become increasingly cost burdened in their housing, healthcare, and other necessities such as access to nutritious food for their families. Fiscally responsible measures such as eliminating state food sales tax are important interventions the Kansas legislature can enact as we move to recovery for all Kansans”

 Julie Brewer,
Executive Director, United Community Services of Johnson Count

“We know that low- and moderate-income families are more likely to experience food insecurity, housing instability, and financial hardship…. The elimination of the food sales tax will directly impact these people families by putting more money in their pockets. More money in their pockets can mean less reliance on emergency services. Money that would have gone to sales tax on food can instead be spent on much needed car repairs or medical bills.”

 Jessica Lehnherr,
President & CEO, United Way of Greater Topeka

 “Now more than ever Kansas families need relief from the food sales tax, especially with record level of inflation making it harder to put food on the table. Given the importance and urgency of this legislation, it should be passed in a clean bill to ensure the bill makes it through the legislative process.”

 Lisse Regehr,
CEO, Thrive Allen County

“Lower-income households shouldn’t pay a higher share of their income in taxes than high-income households… Eliminating the state sales tax on food would particularly help households of color, given their disproportionate concentration at the lower end of the income scale, due to historical and current structural barriers.”

 Emily Fetsch,
Director of Fiscal Policy, Kansas Action for Children