Capitol Update: Rep. Rui Xu is ‘optimistic’ that lawmakers will cut the state’s food sales tax

"On top of local sales taxes, many Kansans are paying around 10% in sales tax just to buy the basic human necessity of food. In northeast Johnson County, that means many people are hopping across the state line and spending their money at grocery stores in Missouri," Rep. Rui Xu, above, writes in this week's Capitol Update column. File image.

Each week during the 2022 Kansas legislative session, we will provide Blue Valley area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol.

Below is this week’s submission from Democratic Rep. Rui Xu of Kansas House District 25, covering parts of northeast Johnson County, including Fairway, Roeland Park and Westwood. 

As a result of strong economic growth in the state and pragmatic, measured fiscal management, Kansas is currently projected to have an ending balance of nearly $3 billion at the end of the fiscal year in June.

While much of the legislative session will be spent debating on what the best use of this surplus is, there is one thing in particular that must be a part of any package: completely eliminating the state’s portion of the sales tax on groceries.

Kansans, unfortunately, have been paying more for groceries than people in 49 other states, as our 6.5% state sales tax on food is higher than all but Mississippi.

On top of local sales taxes, many Kansans are paying around 10% in sales tax just to buy the basic human necessity of food. In northeast Johnson County, that means many people are hopping across the state line and spending their money at grocery stores in Missouri.

It is time to put an end to this highly regressive tax.

Eliminating this is estimated to save a Kansas family of 4 an average of $500 a year, which makes a large impact on their household budget. It would certainly make a difference in mine; a rapidly mobilizing and energetic 2-year-old is starting to eat quite a lot. (Sincere apologies if anyone is having trouble finding Goldfish or Cuties at the grocery store. Astra is eating all of them.)

In previous years, I would generally be much more cautious in the prospects of such a bill passing, but two factors make me optimistic about it getting through the legislature:

  • The aforementioned surplus, which will more than cover the cost of the food sales tax cut ($400-$450 million), without any tax increases or cuts to essential services.
  • The idea is bipartisan! I was proud to cosponsor House Bill 2487, which was just introduced last week, and we had 6 Republican co-sponsors along with every member of the House Democratic Caucus. This would meaningfully improve the lives of every single one of our constituents.

Under the Brownback Administration in the 2010s, Kansas became infamous for passing huge, irresponsible tax cuts to benefit large corporations. In order to cover the massive budget holes, Brownback cut education funding, infrastructure investment and raised our food sales tax from 6.15% to the 6.5% rate in use today.

With ambition and prudent fiscal investments, the 2020s can be known for returning spending power back to real Kansans, investing more in our amazing school system, and creating a thriving state to be proud of. It is past time to get this done.

As always, it is a pleasure to serve District 25 in the Kansas House. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at 913-535-8691 or at rui.xu@house.ks.gov.