Coleman introduces bill to eliminate grocery tax

Opponents worry removing tax will take away revenue


The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City.

By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

Missouri is one of 13 remaining states that has a sales tax on groceries — the tax is around one percent. Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, is seeking to eliminate the tax through House Bill 1992.

The bill would remove the one percent tax on any retail sales of food stamp eligible food — meat, fruits and vegetables, dairy, bread, seeds and non-alcoholic beverages. This list is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligible list.

Mary Elizabeth Coleman

“With inflation and cost rising on absolutely everything, groceries are an absolute necessity of life and I want to do everything I can to make things more affordable for Missouri families,” Coleman said.

Coleman said as the bill went through committee, her definition of food was changed to Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) eligible items. The change was meant to eliminate items some committee members felt were inappropriate, including meat, fruit and vegetables and frozen foods.

“It’s like pulling on a piece of thread. When you change that definition to say only WIC benefits don’t have a tax, it got rid of the previous decrease of four percent to one percent, so now a whole lot of items that were taxed at one percent … were increased to four percent,” Coleman said. “It did the exact opposite of what I wanted to have happen.”

Eventually the change was corrected in a different committee, and a press release by Coleman states the bill could now save Missourians $144 million a year if passed. 

Nationally, similar bills have received mostly bipartisan support but in Kansas, Illinois and Missouri, the bills are opposed by whichever party did not propose it.

“The Kansas and Illinois governors have proposed eliminating their grocery tax, and they are both Democrats and the Republicans seem to oppose the idea. Here in Missouri, a Republican, me, introduced the idea and the Democrats are opposing it here,” Coleman said. “Unfortunately it seems like nationally what happens is whose idea it is determines if you get bipartisan support or not. That’s unfortunate because I think this is something both parties nationally support and should support.”

A committee report on the bill stated opponents of the tax removal say the bill would remove funding from municipalities and schools.