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Thumbs up: End to food tax a help to struggling families

Jul. 05, 2013 @ 11:56 PM

The sales tax on groceries came to an end in West Virginia this week.

That will put a little money back in everyone's pocket, but the change is a particular help to the thousands of West Virginia households that are just getting by.

About 17 percent of West Virginians live below the poverty level, but in a state with one of the nation's lowest median incomes, many others are not doing much better. The most recent census numbers show that about 60 percent of West Virginia households have incomes of less than $50,000.

Before the state began to chip away at the food tax in 2005, the average family paid $300 or more in taxes on food. In announcing the change this week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin estimated that West Virginians already have saved about $162 million a year since the phase-out began.

That helps families meet other expenses and hopefully stimulates other areas of the economy. We hope shoppers also will take the subtle hint to make healthier food purchase choices. The sales tax remains in effect for soft drinks, vending machine snacks and prepared food.

The initiative also shows the value of taking a phased-in approach to difficult tax changes. Most agreed that a sales tax on groceries was regressive and hit the poor harder than the rich, but there was the question of how government would handle the loss of revenue.

The state dropped the tax from 6 cents per dollar spent in 2005 to 3 cents in 2008 and then to 1 cent in 2012, allowing officials to shore up the Rainy Day Fund and gradually adjust to the change.



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