TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Cutting the state’s food sales tax is still on the table for Kansas lawmakers when they return later this month.
A spokesman for senate leadership confirmed with Kansas Capitol Bureau in an email Thursday that the debate over the future of the tax cut would kick off in the Senate. This time, lawmakers are looking at a Republican-backed agreement that pushes the date to eliminate the food tax to 2025. This pumps the brakes on Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s original push to eliminate the state’s hefty 6.5% food sales tax by this summer.
“The only way to look at this that makes sense is through politics,” said Rep. Rui Xu, D-Westwood. “It’s an election year with the governor at the top of the ticket, and they don’t want to get her this win in an election year.”
Earlier this year, some Democrats were hoping there was room for negotiation when proposals circulated with varying timelines. The final proposal came out of the House and Senate Tax Conference Committee last week, with some Democrats speaking against the plan. In committee, Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, emphasized comments from Democrats who believe the best time to cut the food tax is this year since state revenue is up.
“We know we have the money to do this now,” Holland said. “I’m strongly disappointed that we were not able to make a significant cut by July 1st of this year. I’m further disappointed that we were not able to eliminate this a year from July 1.”
Under the proposal, the food sales tax would be reduced to 4% next year, then 2% in 2024, before dropping off completely in 2025. That means the earliest reduction wouldn’t come until after this year’s race for governor in November, where Kelly will be facing off against Republican front-runner Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
The attorney general also backed a food tax reduction early on, which some hoped would signal bipartisan support for elimination. Political analyst Dr. Bob Beatty from Topeka said the current plan could backfire come election time.
“The danger for Republicans is that the Governor points that out in her reelection campaign … basically, spelling out … we had the money, we could’ve cut food taxes, we have the biggest food tax in the nation … here’s why it didn’t happen,” Beatty said.
However, some GOP lawmakers have hinted at spending cautiously, worrying about sending the state into a “tailspin” after other major investments have been made.
“We want to take a look at the out years and the longevity and make sure we’re not going too far too fast,” said Republican House Tax Committee Chair Rep. Adam Smith, speaking with Kansas Capitol Bureau in January. “I’m trying to act on it with caution and make sure that we’re being responsible.”