JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - When you’re making your budget each month, you may or may not pay close attention to the sales tax tacked onto items like groceries. And Mississippi’s sales tax on groceries is hitting your wallet harder than other states.
Mississippi has the highest grocery tax in the country at 7 percent. Only 13 states have any level of a grocery tax.
“I don’t think that is fair,” said Della Mayers as she left the grocery store. “I think that they shouldn’t be taxing food because a lot of people really don’t have. And I’m one of them.”
Three bills in total have been filed in the 2021 legislative session in an attempt to change that. One House bill would phase out the grocery tax within seven years. But two Senate bills would immediately exempt groceries from that 7% sales tax.
“It disproportionately effects poor families in Mississippi,” explained Sen. Derrick Simmons who filed SB 2185. “By eliminating the grocery tax, at least we’d provide them some relief that they actually have shouldered the burden for so many years.”
But that does create a budget gap.
“265 million dollars a year that the state would not generate if we eliminate the grocery tax,” noted Simmons. “I propose the way we pay for it is by repealing the 2016 tax cuts that went to corporations and not citizens.”
The Mississippi Center for Justice has long advocated for the tax to be eliminated. But say it’s particularly important to bring up as the Governor is supporting phasing out the state income tax.
“It’s irresponsible to get rid of a major source of income for the state and not really analyze whose going to be effected most by it,” said MCJ Advocacy Director Beth Orlansky. “And the sales tax, across the board, is a regressive tax but when it comes to food which people really need in order to live and to take care of their families... that doesn’t need to be the tax that stays in plays while others go away.”
Democrats have filed the bills but Republican Rep. Trey Lamar, who chairs the House Ways and Means committee, has indicated that he’s open to having the conversation.