In addition to increasing access to broadband, eliminating the food tax and creating an annual four-day state sales tax holiday for school supplies, Gov. Laura Kelly wants to help bring more businesses to Kansas.
“Commerce is sort of a 24/7 365-day agency that works with a lot of our communities,” she said during an interview on Tuesday with The News. “We’ve done a lot of work with Hutchinson over the past four years.”
Although Kelly cannot give any specifics about any projects, she said, “Commerce has been approached and there’s an opportunity in Reno County; they will do everything they can to ensure it becomes a reality.”
As for taxes on food, Kelly is adamant. She said with inflation and high food costs she wants to cut these taxes as soon as possible.
“I signed a bill last (Monday) night that axes the food sales tax, but it phased in beginning this January 1. And then we have a final phase in 2025,” Kelly said. “I will be asking the legislature to speed that up and axe that tax completely.”
Kelly is hoping for an April 1 deadline. In addition to food, she wants diapers and feminine hygiene products to be exempt from the state sales tax.
“Food prices have soared over the past year, I think I heard they went up 12%,” she said. “The least we can do is take this other 4% sales tax off of groceries and take the entire six and a half off diapers and feminine hygiene products.”
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The food tax is a regressive tax, with lower-income families having to have a higher percentage of their income going toward their food budget. This creates additional barriers.
One-fifth of the lowest-income families in the U.S. spend almost twice as much of their annual income on food as the highest-income fifth do, according to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The smaller the income of the family, the higher the percentage that is spent on food; therefore, proportionally, lower and moderate-income families will have a larger percentage of their disposable income going toward food taxes than higher-income families.
As of now, according to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 13 states have some form of food tax. Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri have 1.5% or less tax on foods. Virginia has a 2.5% tax, followed by Utah with 3%. Alabama, Hawaii and Tennessee each have a 4% tax, with Oklahoma and South Dakota following with 4.5%. Idaho has 6.1% and Mississippi has 7%. Kansas had been the second highest with 6.5%.
Kelly said she is looking into everyway she can provide relief to working families.
“With the economic development that we have seen in this state in the four years, … we can afford to completely eliminate the sales tax on food, and with no detriment to our budget going forward,” she said. “It’s just one of those things that need to get done.”
Along with eliminating food taxes, Kelly wants to change the income tax paid by those receiving social security. If someone makes $75,000 or less in the state of Kansas, they do not pay income tax on their social security. But if they make $1 more than that, no matter what the reason, they must pay income tax on the entire amount.
“I am proposing that one, we take that $75,000 and we increase it to $100,000,” she said. “This plan will put money back in Kansans’ pockets.”