Kansas is one of seven states to tax food at the same full rate as other goods and services. So the proposals making their way around the Statehouse, to reduce or eliminate a tax on food, make a lot of sense and should gain bipartisan support.
This is not the right time to reduce the amount of revenue in the next state budget. There’s a surplus gained from overriding former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts in 2017, but needs in so many areas of state government are clawing for it — as will lawmakers’ attempts to come into compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to come up with a new school-funding formula. That formula is likely to total in the hundreds of millions over the life of the formula.
So maybe not now, but a reduced tax on food someday will help the debit cards of Kansas shoppers while helping grocers near state borders compete with lower food taxes on the other side.
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Kansas’ state sales tax is 5.5 percent. Oklahoma also taxes food sales fully (4.5 percent), Missouri taxes food at a reduced 1.2 percent, and Colorado and Nebraska don’t tax food sales.
Reducing food taxes by 1 percentage point would drop revenue by an estimated $60 million to $70 million. Eliminating the food tax completely would decrease revenue by an estimated $246 million.
Those numbers could be crippling for the upcoming state budget. Better to put it aside for another session and hope it’s more feasible in 2019.