Some Republicans in the state Senate say they’re also on board with that part of the governor’s plan.
Republican Senator Brenda Dietrich, vice chair of the state’s Senate Commerce Committee, said GOP members in the Senate are “on the same page” with the governor when it comes to dropping the food tax to 0% this year.
“On the food sales tax piece, trying to get it done before the end of the year … we are working on that,” Dietrich told the Kansas Capitol Bureau in an interview Wednesday. “Of course, everything has to be negotiated, and there’s always compromises that have to be made, but I would say that you’re going to find the Senate has been working on this for quite some time.”
Dietrich said the Republicans in the Senate have already been working on a plan for the last several months.
It’s a change of tune from last year when Republicans negotiated passing a gradual reduction instead of the governor’s proposal for complete elimination.
Under the plan, the state’s food sales tax dropped from 6.5% to 4% starting Jan. 1. Then, shoppers would have to wait until 2025 before the food tax drops to 0%.
Some Democrats suspected that “political games” factored into the Republican-controlled Legislature’s decision to delay eliminating the tax during a heated election year.
“With anything, you always want to be prudent and strategic when you make those kinds of decisions,” Dietrich said. “I think you need to be careful when you’re making new policy that you plan for all the unintended consequences, so sometimes it’s easier when you roll it out in steps, instead of all at one time … so I think it was just an overabundance of caution.”
Dietrich said she believes a full elimination of the state sales tax at a faster pace is something that both chambers may be willing to work on, and it’s a plan that’s already underway on the Senate side.
With a midterm election year that’s finally wrapped and a state budget surplus, House Minority Leader-elect Vic Miller, D-Topeka, said lawmakers should be able to take action on eliminating the food sales tax by this year.
“There is no reason in the world we shouldn’t be doing it immediately,” Miller said. “Anybody arguing that we can’t afford it is offering a very artificial and phony argument … it’s clearly political games. It’s time to quit playing games with the people’s money. It’s their money. We need to get it back to them.”
He said other parts of the governor’s tax plan that may need to be negotiated include eliminating the tax on feminine hygiene products and children’s diapers. The governor is also advocating for a school supply sales tax holiday.
Dietrich said they’re also hoping to make sure that retailers can adjust to any “quick changes” after Walmart ran into issues switching over to the new sales tax on New Year’s Day.
However, she said lawmakers in the Senate appear to be headed in the same direction when it comes to dropping the food sales tax to 0% this year.
“How we do it is always something that needs to be negotiated,” Dietrich said. “But, I think everybody’s feeling very comfortable with that on the Senate side.”