Tim Hodge (D-North Newton) has twice campaigned on, among other things, lowering the sales tax on food. He has won twice with that issue as one of the central planks of his platform.
Kansas has, depending on where you get the stats, the highet sales tax on groceries in the nation. Add to the state sales tax with local taxes, and a pretty sizeable piece of the local grocery budget goes for taxes. In Newton, that's 8.5 percent.
His campaign to reduce or eliminate that tax picked up steam this last year when Gov. Laura Kelly also picked up the drumbeat. Then, a week ago at a legislative breakfast, agreeance came from Sen. Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) (and to be fair, she has talked about lowering the sales tax on groceries for a spell herself) and freshman legislator Rep. Steven Owens (R-Hesston).
A reduction of that tax appeared in two bills this week, and one could be perplexed to learn that Hodge voted against that bill. That seems custom made for attack mailers in the next election — but it is not. His vote is actually consistent with his campaign. Hodge does not believe the bill went far enough — reducing the sales tax by just one cent — while giving a $150 million tax break to corporations looking to move money back to the U.S. from overseas.
The estimated "cost" of that one cent reduction is $50 million. And Hodge is right when he says no one will likely feel that reduction. He's also right that consumers and the working poor would feel it if the state halved the sales tax on groceries. Coincidentally, the legislature could have just about done that with $150 million.
The debate over the sales tax on food is not likely to go away, and it should not. Hodge is on record, as is Stephanie Clayton of Johnson County, as wanting it completely eliminated.
So are we. Give tax breaks to people who will actually spend the money, and spend it in Kansas. That is exactly what a sales tax cut will do.
We hope our local contingent in Topeka will continue to work for that goal — and, thankfully, have every reason to believe they will do so.
— Kansan Editorial Board