Don’t play politics with food sales tax

This should not be a campaign issue. Kansas can easily afford to eliminate the tax now.

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Editorials

November 12, 2021 - 3:28 PM

The two people most likely to face off in the 2022 Kansas gubernatorial race — Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican — have both called for cutting the state sales tax on food. If the intent really is about helping financially challenged Kansans, as it should be, then lawmakers should not play political games. They should not wait. They should put it on the agenda for January and get it done. We welcome both candidates, and their parties, to this issue. We’ve been calling for a cut in the Kansas food sales tax for years, with little success. Elections have a way of forcing politicians to focus on actual people. Eliminating the state’s 6.5% food sales tax is clearly the right thing to do. Taxing items essential for life and health is wrong.

IN KANSAS, 1 in 7 people are food insecure. They need tax relief at the grocery store now. Most states have already either eliminated or significantly reduced the tax. Kansas, on the other hand, has the second highest food sales tax rate in the country. It needs to end that sorry record.

Now, since both sides agree on the wisdom of eliminating the levy, passing it should be simple and quick. Right? Alas, nothing is simple in Topeka. Already there are whispers Republicans will attach food sales tax relief to unrelated tax cuts for the wealthy, then dare Kelly to veto the package. They’d prefer a campaign issue to actual progress. It’s happened before. In 2019, Kelly vetoed a tax bill that cut the food sales tax because it also contained costly provisions cutting corporate taxes. She was right to do so. Playing politics with the food sales would be a travesty. It’s essential that lawmakers, and Kelly, consider a stand-alone food sales tax bill — an up-or-down vote on one proposal, alone, without attachments or distractions, in January 2022. The governor should endorse this approach. Schmidt, who has made vague offers to “assist” GOP legislators with reducing the food sales tax, should also call for a clean vote on a single-issue bill.

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