JEFFERSON CITY - A bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers has endorsed the governor's proposal to cut the state sales tax on groceries, House Speaker Steve Gaw, D-Moberly, announced Thursday.
Gaw told reporters he has more than 140 co-sponsors for the bill from 161 members in the House including the House Republican leader.
The proposal would cut sales tax on groceries from the current 4.225 percent to 1.225 percent.
"Everybody, as a part of life, has to eat, but they shouldn't have to pay a general sales tax to the state in order to do that." Gaw said.
The measure covers only groceries that can be purchased with food stamps. Restaurant meals and carry-out items would not be covered.
In addition, the bill would allow grocery stores to retain a higher portion of the sales tax they collect to help cover the costs of calculating the different tax rates for the first year.
Missouri tax law allows merchants to collect more money in sales taxes than they must send to the state as a way of compensation for the costs of sales tax collection.
A similar bill grocery tax cut, passed in the House last year but failed in the Senate the last week of the session.
Grocers opposed last year's version because of the implementation costs, said co-sponsor Rep. Mark Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.
This year, supporters are hoping substantial bipartisan support will push the bill through both chambers. Richardson is the House Republican leader.
Gov. Mel Carnahan, who proposed a general sales tax reduction last year, announced last fall his support for the grocery tax cut.
The administration estimates the governor's plan would reduce taxes for the average Missouri family of four by $137 per year.
Charles Thurston, Nowell's general manager for Columbia, said he can see disadvantages to the change, but is essentially in favor of cutting the food tax.
"With a little bit more to spend, then maybe it would benefit the grocer," he said.
But Thurston said it would be a substantial amount of work for his grocery stores to change their system to accommodate a different tax rate.