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. Mari-Lynn Poskin of Kansas House District 20, which covers parts of Leawood and Overland Park.
The views expressed in each Capitol Update are solely those of the lawmaker and are not reflective of the Post’s position on any matter discussed.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)
This Bible verse is generally interpreted to mean that one’s values can be discerned by watching what one does with their “treasure.” I believe our treasure includes time, talent and money. It has been eye-opening to see what the Kansas Legislature does with its considerable treasure.
This session, we have more treasure — in the form of a budget surplus — than we have in decades. There is bipartisan support to eliminate the state sales tax on food, which is the second highest in the nation. Both likely gubernatorial candidates have called for it. This tax is regressive, meaning that it is a higher percentage of income for our lowest wage earners. One out of six children in Kansas face food insecurity.
Combined with higher prices at the grocery store, this is relief that our Legislature could have provided to struggling families back in January. In fact, on January 10th, Gov. Laura Kelly challenged us to deliver a clean bill to completely eliminate the state food sales tax to her desk by Kansas Day, January 29th. She promised to sign it into law immediately.
By January 14th, HB 2487, a bipartisan sponsored bill to do just that, was introduced. It had a hearing on January 25th and has yet to be worked.
With all the time, talent and treasure available to the Legislature, we still have no food sales tax bill passed. Clearly, our collective heart does not treasure immediately helping our most vulnerable families and their children, despite repeated declarations that it does.
Other versions of a food tax bill have been introduced.
One Senate version had a start date of 2024, just in time for their re-election pursuits. Others have a start date of January 2023, depriving families of a whole year of savings, while also depriving Gov. Kelly of any sort of credit when families are considering her re-election bid. Still others add restaurant food, ballooning the fiscal note. Some strip funding from our State Highway fund.
The devil, and state of our hearts, are found in these details.
The most recent version, HB 2711, which is scheduled for final action in the House Taxation Committee on Tuesday, would lower the overall sales tax rate by .2% to 6.3% and the food sales tax to 3.5%. For comparison, our neighbor Missouri taxes food sales at 1.225%, and they are considering dropping theirs to zero, as well. The version the committee is considering does provide for further reductions under certain conditions.
We have enough money to eliminate the state food sales tax right now with a clean bill. The question is whether the majority of the time and talent in the Capitol building values elections more than our families.
Perhaps we can move hearts to get this done. You can find your legislators and their email addresses at www.ksleglookup.org. Urge your lawmakers to look into their hearts to get this done ASAP.
Some days, this job breaks my heart.
I can be reached at Mari-Lynn.Poskin@House.KS.gov or 913-735-0064.