Food Sales Tax Proposal
We started the day in the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee where there was a hearing on Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 1604, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senators Holland, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Pettey, Pilcher-Cook, and Rogers.
SCR 1604, if passed by the legislature and then approved by the electorate would amend the Kansas constitution to require that the state sales tax on food would be set at 4% beginning July 1, 2019, and drop to 2% on July 1, 2020. It would stay at that level thereafter.
Proponents included a grocer from Bird City who spoke of the problem of Kansans driving across the border to buy groceries in Nebraska, advocates for children’s nutrition and the poor, and a farmer from Douglas County.
As part of KNEA’s legislative agenda, we advocate for a reduction in or the elimination of the food sales tax but want it to be done as part of a comprehensive restructuring of the state’s tax system. The Department of Revenue reported that passage of the amendment would result in the loss to the state’s general fund of $128 million in revenue in the first year and $246.4 million in the second provided that the change only applied to groceries. It would be a greater loss if it also applied to restaurants. We understand that, as written, it would apply to both. Without another tax change to offset the lost revenue, we would once again be facing difficult decisions when it comes to funding state services. Senator Holland said that the intent was for it to apply only to groceries.
Kansas has the second highest food sales tax in the nation and the highest one regionally. This change would only apply to the state sales tax rate so, in the first year, shoppers would pay a tax of 4% plus any local sales tax levy.
Committee Chair Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) asked why this was in a constitutional amendment and not in a statutory change. Some Senators indicated they were open to making the change statutorily. We believe that tax rates should not be set in the constitution. Where that is done, the legislature has no ability to make adjustments in rates to deal with changing economic conditions without seeking another constitutional amendment. Tax rates should be handled via statutes, not constitutional provisions.
No action was taken on the resolution today.
Campus Concealed Carry Modified in House Vote
The full House today debated HB 2042, a bill recognizing conceal carry permits from other states and allowing such permit holders to carry a concealed firearm in Kansas.
Three amendments of interest were offered today. The first amendment by Rep. Brenda Landwehr, which passed on a vote of 82-42, lowers the age for a concealed carry permit from 21 to 18.
The second one by Rep. Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) would have repealed the campus carry provision in law under which anyone 21 and older can carry a gun on any campus at any time. Ballard’s amendment would return decision making on firearms policy to the campuses. Some could choose to allow firearms, others could prohibit them. Ballard’s amendment failed on a vote of 53-69.
The third amendment was offered by Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville). Aurand’s amendment would restrict campus carry to concealed carry permit holders only. Under current law, no permit is required to carry a concealed firearm. Aurand’s amendment was adopted on a vote of 70-52.
The bill was then advanced to final action on a voice vote. The final action vote will come tomorrow.
The end result is that, if passed and signed into law, this bill would allow any concealed carry permit holder 18 and older to carry a firearm on a post-secondary campus. Today, anyone 21 and older can carry with or without a permit.
The most interest arguments were made on the Landwehr amendment. Proponents actually argued that we should lower the age because other states have done it. Remember when your child told you,”but everyone’s doing it?” Another argument was that if one is old enough to join the military and fight for our country, one should be allowed to carry a concealed firearm. Interestingly, that’s the same argument made for lowering the drinking age to 18. There has been no bill to do that.