Topeka The Kansas House voted Friday to advance a bill that would impose sales taxes on certain services while lowering the sales tax on food.
Those provisions were added to a bill that originally dealt only with a local sales tax in Marion County.
Although lowering the sales tax on food has been a high priority for Democrats, and a key talking point in campaigns last year, the measures Friday in the House came from conservative Republicans.
Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, offered the first proposal, which failed. It would have removed exemptions for services that he called “luxuries,” or things people do not need to survive. His list included numerous items, among them tattoos, day spas, limousine services, bingo cards and dating services.
Those would have been used to offset a reduction in the sales tax on food by one percentage point, to 5.5 percent.
“As a representative from the east side of Lawrence, I have to say that I object to the tax on tattoo services. Some of my constituents wouldn’t speak to me anymore,” Democratic Rep. Boog Highberger said.
After Whitmer’s proposal failed, Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, offered the plan that eventually prevailed, in large part. She offered a different list of services to be taxed, starting July 1. But the 1 percent reduction in the food sales tax would not take effect for three years, until mid-2020.
That list includes towing; nonresidential cleaning services, including plumbing and pool cleaning; pet day care; detective and security services, including private security guards; mini storage and self-storage services; and collection agencies.
Those taxes are expected to generate about $61 million a year. By 2020, the reduction in food sales tax is expected to lower revenues by about $64 million per year.
Williams’ amendment also included gym memberships at government-owned or nonprofit fitness centers, including YMCAs and YWCAs. But that provision was later stripped out on a 68-52 vote.
The House divided the vote on Williams’ amendment into two parts. The first part, removing the sales tax exemption for the list of services, passed on a 63-56 vote. All four representatives from Lawrence voted no: Democrats Barbara Ballard, Highberger and John Wilson; and Republican Tom Sloan.
Some conservative Republicans also voted against repealing the exemptions. Among them was Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka, who said it would drive businesses out of Kansas and, “make Missouri great again.”
The second portion lowering the sales tax on food passed easily, 117-3.
Democrats then tried to move the effective date of the lower sales tax on food to July 1 of this year, but that failed, 60-61.
A final vote on the bill is expected Monday. If it passes, the bill would move on to the Senate.