JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — How would you like to pay less for groceries? It’s something Missouri lawmakers are discussing, but paying less could potentially cost public school districts across the state.
The Show-Me State is one of only 13 states in the country that has a sales tax on groceries. If you look at your receipt, you might find a 1.225% tax, that’s the state sales tax. Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold) wants to do away with it, but her proposal could affect school funding.
It’s something you probably don’t even realize, it’s just another tax on your bill.
“We see inflation rising across the country, and so anything we can do to offset those costs increases by reducing the tax is going to mean more money in your pocket,” Coleman said.
Missouri, along with Kansas and Illinois are looking to do away with the state sales tax on groceries, which for the average Missourian, Coleman said, could put nearly $200 back in your wallet.
“Groceries represent about 11% of a family’s budget and for a family, that’s at or near the poverty line, that’s going to be a really significant portion,” Coleman said. “It’s expensive to eat well.”
Under House Bill 1992, it would only affect the state sales tax, not the local tax, but it still takes a toll on Missouri’s revenue.
The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) testified in opposition to the bill, saying 1 cent on every dollar is provided to schools as sales tax on food purchases. That totals around $150 million for Missouri schools, which means this bill eliminates that fund and is concerned there is no up to make up those costs.
“We can fund our schools and make sure that we are not providing taxes on basic services,” Coleman said. “We have some other revenue sources that have come in, we have a record budget going to our public schools and I think we can do both.”
During an interview Friday, Coleman pointed out that there is an ability for local jurisdictions to ask their electorate if they need a new tax. She also said with the legislation lawmakers passed last year, known as the Wayfair tax, businesses that do not have a brick and mortar presence are now required to pay a tax, but the state doesn’t have the dollar figure yet of what that new law has brought in.
“What it boils down to is non-prepared items, so you’re going to see this decrease on fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, and grains,” Coleman said. “But, chicken that’s prepared at the deli, that’s already been cooked, that would not see this tax decrease.”
Her bill passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously. She believes this bipartisan bill will only cost the state roughly $60 to $70 million.
The bill was amended in the hearing to prevent Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP recipients have paying to pay taxes on those benefits.
“That’s a real difference in the life of a family, it’s buying Christmas presidents for your kids,” Coleman said.
HB 1992 needs one final vote out of a rules committee before it heads to the House floor for approval.
There’s also been a push this session by two Democratic Kansas City lawmakers, Rep. Patty Lewis and Sen. Lauren Arthur, to remove the sales tax on diapers.
In Missouri, there is a 4.2% tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products. That’s the same rate a consumer will pay for beer or jewelry.