State senate candidates on the issues: Should the sales tax on food in Kansas be removed?

Dan Blom - October 13, 2016 11:00 am

We sent questions last week to candidates for state senate in Districts 6, 7 and 10, all of which cover at least a portion of northeast Johnson County. The questions we selected came from a large number submitted by readers.

By the deadline for the fourth question, we had received the following responses. They appear below. Today’s question is:

Do you believe that the sales tax on food in Kansas should be removed? Should sales tax be removed on any other items?

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Senate District 7

Barbara Bollier

Barbara Bollier
Barbara Bollier

Kansas has the second highest sales tax on food in the US. Food sales tax is the most regressive of all taxes and yes, we need to reduce and ultimately eliminate our tax on food. That being said, we are in a financial crisis in Kansas because of the failed income tax policy of Governor Brownback and those who voted for his plan. I have never voted for any of his tax policy changes,

For the upcoming fiscal year, our revenues are already in the negative and we will be forced to look at more cuts to the budget. The entire tax structure of the state needs to be put on the table and evaluated, with a goal of putting a new comprehensive tax plan in place that is fair, sustains our budget, but is not burdensome on Kansans. We need real revenue reform, not piecemeal fixes that don’t address the true financial needs of Kansas and the responsible government we expect to maintain.

Megan England

Megan England
Megan England

According to the United Community Services of Johnson County (UCS), if poverty was a city, it would be the 5th largest and fastest growing in Johnson County equaling 6.5% of the population or 37,000 people. Over 6% of all children in Johnson County under the age of 18 grow up in poverty. Despite stereotypes, the majority of Johnson County poor are white U.S. citizens with at least some college education and are working at least part-time or part of the year. We are talking about our children, our parents, our neighbors and our friends.

Most Republicans think sales taxes are a winning ticket because they “spread financial burden” from the “backs of property owners”. In reality, it means taking from the poor to give to the rich. Governor Brownback and the Republicans in Topeka solidified the largest sales tax hike in Kansas history and the highest sales tax on food in the nation. Our new rates rank us 9th on the national list of worst offenders for income equality according to the Institute of Tax and Economic Policy. The poorest Americans pay nearly 11% of their income in taxes compared to the wealthiest at 5.4%

We cannot consider sales tax a primary staple of the Kansas revenue stream. We have to broaden our tax policy out of ethical, moral, and financial concerns.

1)   Increasing taxation on foods is an assumption that substantial revenue can be raised from those who have very little. I call it a recipe for fiscal disaster.

2)    Johnson and Wyandotte Counties serve as economic engines for the state, and it benefits all Kansans for our retailers have an edge to attract customers across state line.

3)    The economy is strongest when the most people are housed, employed and self-sufficient. The tax dollars we invest to help the elderly and those experiencing poverty become self-sufficient is returned at the registers. What is supposed to be a “help up” is actually a financial wash. That money is then used to avoid raising property taxes and continue Brownback’s “experiment”. Yet another example of the reckless ineptitude of those in charge. The poor and elderly are literally paying to continue the tax breaks for the wealthy. That’s not “fiscally responsible” and it’s definitely not “Christian”.

We must prioritize reducing the tax on food and our overall reliance on consumption taxes.

Senate District 10

Vicki Hiatt

Vicki Hiatt
Vicki Hiatt

Yes. I believe we must work to lower Kansas sales tax on food, and we must prevent increases in consumption taxes on most goods. The state of Kansas has handed residents a double dose of tax punishment in the last few years, increasing the tax on food products to the highest in the nation and removing the food tax credit provided to middle and lower income families.

Despite one of the largest tax increases in our state history, my opponent will contend she has “always” been opposed. But check the record. On May 1, 2016, Sen. Pilcher-Cook voted for a budget she knew was unconstitutional and was built on the tax policies she now condemns. Rather than stand up for her district, she folded.
The Kansas tax policy is, by design, tied to the way we budget for our state. How can we improve both?

We have to look at tax policies which will benefit our business and local community. But saying we are “fighting for low taxes” as my opponent does, also means we must tell voters the truth about how we vote in Topeka. We have to tell people that a vote for an unconstitutional budget which requires these tax policies negates our “hard stance” against taxes. You simply can’t have it both ways.

Senator Pilcher-Cook would love for you to believe she has always been against taxes, but repeatedly in the state house, she has advocated policies which either resulted in unchecked spending or lawsuits the state ended up paying fees to handle. She has been a party to passing budgets that put our state in serious economic jeopardy.

We need a fair tax policy that is pro-business. Sales taxes deter spending and, as a result, are not as stable for budgeting purposes. We must come up with a tax policy that gives us low, stable tax rates for everyone so businesses can grow.

Republican Representative Stephanie Clayton has recently proposed that there should be tax relief on human dignity products. These are medical or hygiene products that individuals require. I believe that is another form of tax relief we should consider.

Senator Pilcher-Cook’s plan is a long history of saying “no” without proposing any solutions. I think we can do better.

Mary Pilcher-Cook

Mary Pilcher-Cook
Mary Pilcher-Cook

I voted to eliminate the sales tax on food to help all Kansas citizens, especially those on fixed incomes. I would especially like to work towards the removal of sales tax on meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, as these are basic non-processed foods that everyone needs to live healthy lives.

I also voted against Governor Brownback’s sales tax increase and I voted for the property tax lid, which will keep cities and counties from increasing taxes on citizens without their vote.

As far as sales tax exemptions on any other product or service, it is crucial even-playing fields exist for businesses and industries so they can all compete equally in a free-market economy that will benefit consumers. Companies should have to deliver the best product or service at the best price to get the consumer’s business. When specific businesses or industries receive tax breaks, the government is deciding who the winners and the losers will be in the marketplace, bypassing the consumer, and it opens the door to probable future corruption when businesses court politicians for taxpayer money.

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