Cutting grocery tax: go slow

Published 2:49 pm Saturday, January 24, 2009

A poll by The Associated Press released on Saturday shows most legislators favor rescinding the sales tax on groceries.

This is not a new idea, but for the first time has the backing of about 31 percent of members of the House and 30 percent of the Senate. The 4 percent tax on groceries benefits education. But members of both parties in the Legislature say they have found ways to make up for the cut.

During these economic hard times, this is the advice we’re hearing from local governments: Go slow.

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Here’s the quandary: Sales taxes on groceries are considered some of the most repressive taxes levied by governments. They hit poor people at a higher percentage of income than others, thus placing a greater portion of the burden on poor people — working poor included.

However, many smaller cities and towns depend on the sales taxes on groceries to fund city services. That means helping pay the salaries of police officers, firefighters, public works laborers and a host of others.

In some small towns the local grocery generates the most sales tax. To eradicate those funds without some kind of stop-gap to replace them would send small towns and cities reeling, meaning city services would have to suffer more cuts than already planned.

Any plan to cut grocery taxes coming out of the Legislature to cut grocery taxes would have to consider all angles.

Certainly the people of this state would appreciate a lighter tax burden, but not at the expense of feeling safe and enjoying city services.