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Effort to eliminate food sales tax hits another snag in Kansas Legislature

There is still a chance your grocery bill could get a little less expensive, but that may take longer than expected.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 10:54 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) - There is still a chance your grocery bill could get a little less expensive, but that may take longer than expected. Tuesday, House Democrats in the Kansas Legislature tried to take the bill eliminating the state’s food sales ta out of committee and onto the floor, but it failed. While getting rid of the tax has bipartisan support, on Tuesday only 10 Republicans voted in favor of debating it on the floor and some lawmakers who previously expressed support for it voted “nay.”

The “nay” votes don’t mean lawmakers changed their minds. Eliminating the food sales tax is still the goal for both Democrats and Republicans in Kansas. Since Governor Laura Kelly announced her push to “ax the food tax” last year, some have feared that when it came down to it, politics and this being an election year would come into play.

One Republican lawmaker who spoke with Eyewitness News Tuesday said that is not the case and there’s an issue with the process moving slowly and lawmakers just now getting information on whether Kansas can handle a food sales tax elimination financially in years to come.

“What do the next three, four years look like? We need to see what the consensus revenue estimates are and we literally just got those numbers last week,” said Rep. Stephen Owens, R-Hesston. “And I think that was the overarching reason it took so long.”

Another factor is the Senate is already looking at a different food tax reduction bill. Instead of eliminating the tax entirely, it’d happen gradually. But even that wouldn’t happen until next year.

Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, remains hopeful that something can happen this legislative session to give Kansans a break on their grocery bills. He’s one lawmaker who hoped to eliminate the food sales tax by July 1.

Rep. Owns has the same hope and has often voiced his support for axing the food tax.

He ended up voting “nay” on Tuesday, but not because he changed his mind. He said as much as he’d like to see the food sales tax gone by July, they’re still learning about the financial impact that could have in coming years.

Both acknowledging that Kansas taxpayers need relief, Sawyer and Owens think some sort of food sales tax reduction will happen this session and eventually, the food tax in Kansas will be gone.

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