Archive for Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kansas sales tax on groceries is unpopular but untouchable

Delores Kaczor, of Lawrence, left, buys groceries Wednesday at Checkers, 2300 Louisiana, as cashier Betty Grems, tallies the total. Kansans pay more sales tax on groceries than everyone in the country except residents of Mississippi.

Delores Kaczor, of Lawrence, left, buys groceries Wednesday at Checkers, 2300 Louisiana, as cashier Betty Grems, tallies the total. Kansans pay more sales tax on groceries than everyone in the country except residents of Mississippi.

October 20, 2012


Kansans pay more sales tax on groceries than everyone in the country except residents of Mississippi.

And legislative candidates speaking at a Douglas County forum last week showed there is bipartisan disdain for the state sales tax on food.

“A tax on food is one of the most regressive taxes we have in the tax code,” said state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and the ranking minority member on the Senate tax committee.

“Personally, I think it’s kind of morally wrong to tax a commodity like food,” said Republican Patrick Bengtson, of Lawrence, who is running for House District 44.

But what are the chances of actually getting rid of the sales tax on food?

Every year or so, there is a preliminary vote in the Legislature to repeal it, but the effort usually fizzles under the pressures of funding government, or in the case of the last legislative session, cutting other taxes.

During the 2012 session, the Kansas House approved massive tax cuts, which included an amendment by state Rep. Jana Goodman, R-Leavenworth, to remove the state sales tax from food.

But Republicans who supported Gov. Sam Brownback’s desire for individual income tax cuts and eliminating income taxes for owners of 191,000 sole proprietorships, Subchapter S corporations and limited liability companies, quickly jettisoned the proposal to remove the sales tax on food, saying it was too expensive — about $300 million — to be added to the other cuts.

Brownback has said the tax cuts he signed into law will expand the economy, create jobs and increase revenue to the state. But critics say the cuts will rob needed revenue from schools and critical social services while benefiting wealthy business owners.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said she supports getting rid of the food sales tax but added the difficulty would be replacing those funds at the state and local level on top of Brownback’s tax cuts.

According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, 45 states have a sales tax, and 31 exempt groceries from the tax.

Of the remaining states, only seven subject food to the full general sales tax rate, and that includes Kansas, Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

Kansas’ 6.3 cents-per-dollar sales tax is the second highest among those, trailing only Mississippi at 7 cents per dollar.

In addition, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and South Dakota allow a rebate or income tax credit to compensate poor households.

Kansas has offered a food sales tax rebate for low-income residents and those with disabilities because it was seen as the best way to mitigate the effect of sales taxes on low-income families. But that rebate program was eliminated under Brownback’s tax cuts.


Antonym 1 year, 5 months ago

I do have the misfortune of living in Kanass until I retire in a few years, but with a little planning I manage to buy 90% of my groceries and gas in Missouri without making any special trips. Kanass is the new Arkansas when it comes to backwards hillbillies.


Mark Kostner 1 year, 5 months ago

I left Kansas in 1980 and have not paid sales taxes on groceries. I live in California--high tax California--and pay no sales tax on food, although they do get you on the soda pop here big time. My previous state was Nevada and we had no taxes on either one. I've heard there is a proposal to eliminate the income tax and shift it to sales tax. If they do, food should be exempted. I really notice sales tax on groceries visiting friends here.


LJ Whirled 1 year, 5 months ago

Probably ought to exempt fresh, real foods ... fruits, berries, greens, veggies, whole-grains ... but probably not Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, Cheez Curls, Ruffles, soda pop, and anything with fudge stripes --- those things ought to have about 10X tax on them, to pay for the diabetes treatment. Same standard of thought ought to be applied to Food Stamps --- i.e., food stamps should only be usable for things that are actually FOOD.

We are too stupid, or lazy, or P.C., or something, to apply common sense to both our food sales tax or our food assistance. I would love the help people who can't afford it buy some real food, but I don't really want to help them get even fatter and less healthy. (yes, I do believe that. It's true)


toe 1 year, 5 months ago

The only reason food is taxed is the voters are comfortable with it.


booyalab 1 year, 5 months ago

Kansas needs the grocery tax. How else are we going to compete with Mississippi for the distinguished title of "state which no one in their right mind would move to". (ok, I moved here. But I have never argued with anyone who accused me of being insane)


Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

--- What about this reckless spending by our conservative Sam Brownback?

--- Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Posted by Jim Hightower

--- Where is the $47 million tax dollars that belong to Kansas taxpayers?

--- My congratulations to workers in 16 states – from Maine to Georgia, New Jersey to Colorado! Many of you will be thrilled to know that the income taxes deducted from your paychecks each month are going to a very worthy cause: your corporate boss.

--- Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, has analyzed state programs meant to create jobs, but instead have created some $700 million a year in corporate welfare. This scam starts with the normal practice of corporations withholding from each employee's monthly check the state income taxes their workers owe.

--- But rather than remitting this money to pay for state services, these 16 states simply allow the corporations to keep the tax payments for themselves! Adding to the funkiness of taxation-by-corporation, the bosses don't even have to tell workers that the company is siphoning off their state taxes for its own fun and profit.

--- These heists are rationalized in the name of "job creation," but that's a hoax, too. They're really just bribes the states pay to get corporations to move existing jobs from one state to another, or they're hostage payments to corporations that demand the public's money – or else they'll move their jobs out of state.

--- Last year, Kansas used workers' withholding taxes to bribe AMC Entertainment with a $47 million payment to move its headquarters from downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to a KC suburb on the Kansas side, just 10 miles away. What a ripoff! Among the 2,700 corporations cashing in on such absurd diversions of state taxes from public need to private greed are Goldman Sachs, GE, Motorola, and Procter & Gamble.

--- AMC Entertainment has since been sold to Dalian Wanda Group of China. Where is the $47,000,000 tax dollars? Surely after receiving 47 million tax $$$ there must be some tool available to get this money back. The owners of AMC robbed the taxpayers by way of Sam Brownback. Seems selling would have made the tax dollar deal illegal?

Recall the 47 million tax $$$$$!


Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Restore income taxes!

Here’s a piece of unadulterated good news: At a meeting of European Union finance ministers last week, eleven European Countries agreed to support a financial transaction tax. It’s the latest step in the truly heartening rise of a much-needed common sense reform. It’s high time that US progressives take heed, and draw inspiration.

“This tax unites Europe—from the people to the politicians, from the troubled economies of the Mediterranean to the more prosperous nations of the north,” e-mailed Owen Tudor, the head of EU and international relations for Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC). “Only fat cat financiers—and the politicians who work in their interests rather than the national interest—stand in the way, and across most of Europe, their objections are being brushed aside.”

I’ve argued before that a financial transaction tax is a win-win: raising revenue to avert austerity, while discouraging speculation to avert the next Wall Street-induced disaster. On this issue, fortunately, the momentum is all on the good guys’ side.

Last month, Congressman Keith Ellison introduced a great FTT bill for America. The news from Europe should strengthen its momentum, for reasons abstract and concrete. Sarah Anderson, the global economy director for the Institute for Policy Studies, argues that implementation in Europe can defang two of the primary arguments against a US FTT tax: just having it on the books there will debunk fears that a US equivalent would drive all of our trading activity to Europe.

And when the European tax succeeds, it will be harder for critics to argue that such taxes can’t raise much money. Indeed, she notes, “the people who are responsible for estimating how much potential revenue there is” have said they “will actually revise their estimate upwards” if Europe implements its own first.

Locally the city taxpayers could cut off the $400,000 spent on the Chamber of Commerce.

Donate all real estate tax dollar incentives(?) to the Grocery Sales Tax Bill of Rights Fund.


Carol Bowen 1 year, 5 months ago

The state of Kansas has always loved the sales tax on food. Everyone has to eat. Sales tax on food is a steady stream of revenue. With the increased food costs we're experiencing, this stream of revenue is very healthy. There's no way the state will give this up.

We could push for no sales tax on prescription drugs. Or, are prescription drugs already tax free?


texburgh 1 year, 5 months ago

The sales tax is the most regressive tax. The poor pay proportionately more than the wealthy. That's why Sam Brownback and the republicans love the sales tax. They can cut taxes for the wealthy (Sam's income tax bill) and make it up with taxes on the poor (Sam's repeal of the food sales tax rebate for the poor) then stick it to the poor even further (Sam's proposal to repeal the coming reduction in the sales tax). All the while, Sam's pals at Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas policy Institute, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce will put out campaign mail and tv and radio convincing the poor to vote against their own e inimical self interest by convincing them that Democrats are "tax and spend." The truth is that the Republicans are tax and spend as we'll only they tax the working poor to spend on tax cuts for the rich.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 months ago

"Kansans pay more sales tax on groceries than everyone in the country except residents of Mississippi."

And Brownback, Koch Bros, et al, intend for the comparisons to Mississippi to become ever more readily apparent.


Liberty275 1 year, 5 months ago

It was a shock when we came here from Florida and found out we were taxed at a grocery store. Food shouldn't be taxed.

This is more fair than taxing food:

Do away with all taxes. Put a state-owned gambling station on every corner. Let people bet on everything. Make the odds on in-house devices 49/51 in favor of the state. Charge a 75% fee for collecting any winnings.


question4u 1 year, 5 months ago

Kansas is the Leona Helmsley of states: "only the little people pay income taxes."

You can use all the self-serving sophistry that you want, and in the end it will come down to the same thing. It's not Christian; it's not ethical; it's not American, but it's what most Kansans support.

Who would stand up in church and say, "I believe that Jesus would want us to tax the poor and not the wealthy. Jesus would want Americans to work against providing health care for the poor and uninsured."

What true Christian actually believes that God turns a blind eye to hypocrisy like that? If you're an atheist and an Ayn Rand fan, then you can adopt whatever egocentric, self-serving philosophy you want, but if you're a Christian you have to play by the Book.

But don't worry, God is merciful and maybe he will buy the argument that in Brownbackistan backwards land selfishness, egotism, and contempt for those less fortunate are actually mercy, charity, and and love for one's neighbor as for oneself.


WilburM 1 year, 5 months ago

They are, and will be after the birth.


rockchalker52 1 year, 5 months ago

Expectant mothers are eating for two, so they should be taxed twice.


tbaker 1 year, 5 months ago

Government taxing food in the first place is wrong, probably even immoral, but what to do about taxing the so-called poor low income people. Hummm….

The state can impose a politically-motivated line in the sand (that has nothing to do with socioeconomic realities) pick winners and losers, and forego some tax revenue to subsidize what the elites believe to be the poor low income people.


It can allow the people who work for and earn the money in the first place to keep more of what is theirs. After all, the state has no money. It has to take every penny it spends from someone who earned it.

What speaks for itself here is the fact many believe a person has no right to exist for their own sake, that service to others is the only justification for their existence. They believe the best use of the State’s power is to plunder more money from those who earn it.

Of course they miss the point. The best thing you can do for a poor person is help them find work that pays them more money. The best social program on Earth is a good job, not another government hand out. Didn’t I just read an article in the LJW that says Kansas unemployment now stands at a four-year low?


atiopatioo 1 year, 5 months ago

Tax should be higher on those eating more than they need.


Hazel Ripstra 1 year, 5 months ago

From the article: "Kansas has offered a food sales tax rebate for low-income residents and those with disabilities because it was seen as the best way to mitigate the effect of sales taxes on low-income families. But that rebate program was eliminated under Brownback’s tax cuts."

No comment necessary - this speaks for itself.


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