Hensley’s Quips: We’re number one, and we don’t like it

By Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley

Last week during a Statehouse news conference, Gov. Brownback claimed that the tax plan he signed into law is not a tax increase. The truth is, not only is it a tax increase, it is the largest tax increase in history.

The sales tax rate now goes up to 6.5 percent statewide as of July 1. This rate applies to all goods purchased, including food. Senate Democrats offered amendments twice to lower the sales tax rate on food.  Both passed by wide margins.  Unfortunately, the final tax plan did not reduce the sales tax on food.

As a result, Kansas now ranks number one for the highest sales tax rate on food in the country. This dubious distinction belonged to Mississippi, which has a 7 percent statewide sales tax but very limited local sales taxes. Our combined statewide and local sales tax is what moves us ahead of Mississippi.

For example, in Liberal, Pittsburg and Parsons the statewide plus the local sales tax is now 9.25 percent, while in Coffeyville, Independence and Leavenworth the combined rate is 9.5 percent.  In Manhattan, where K-State students are going to see a 3.6 percent increase in their tuition and fees, will also have to pay 8.75 percent sales tax on their food, clothing and school supplies. Johnson County consumers will pay the sales tax on food ranging from 8.85 percent in Overland Park to 9.35 percent in Shawnee, and yet Gov. Brownback doesn’t seem at all concerned that they will shop in Missouri where the food sales tax is only 1.225 percent.

The most troubling consequence of being number one is the adverse impact it will have on older and lower-income Kansans who are already struggling to meet their daily needs. 

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