Utility bills, long exempt from sales tax by state statute, will remain so.

The city of Newton's utility rates, which are already high, will not be increased to pay for the sales tax.

“Right now, the utility bills are exempt from sales tax,” said Lunda Asmani, assistant Newton city manager and chief financial officer.

Sen. Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) also said utilities would continue to be exempt from sales tax.

To fill a $384 million budget hole, the state legislature voted, last week, to increase the sales tax from $6.1 to $6.5 and the price of cigarettes by 50 cents.

“I think for the average citizen, not just in Newton, but everyone in the state of Kansas will be paying more,” Asmani said.

Lower income people will feel the biggest effect from the increase. With everyone, regardless of income, paying the same amount, sales taxes are the most regressive form of taxes.

“The bigger burden is on those that make less than those that make more,” Asmani said.

Bobby Rose, sales representative at Conklin Cars of Newton, said the time to buy a car is before the sales tax increase takes effect in July.

“The customers are going to feel it, we're going to feel it,” Rose said. “It's unheard of. It's ridiculous.”

“I had a customer come in a little bit ago who said he wanted to buy before the sales tax increase starts.”

The sales tax increase could have a bad economic effect beyond the businesses and their customers, Rose said.

“It all rolls down hill,” he said.