Lawmaker wants to end Tennessee grocery tax

(WMC-TV) – One Memphis lawmaker wants to ease the price you pay to stock your fridge.

Tennessee state Sen. Jim Kyle is sponsoring a bill to lower food taxes.

The Democratic senator from Memphis has been working on this effort for more than a year now. But this time around, Tennessee's Republican governor also favors the idea of lower food taxes.

Kyle is one of several state lawmakers churning out bills to take a bite out of the state's food sales tax.

"This says we will make it a priority of our government to take the sales tax off of food," Kyle said.

The move comes after The Tax Foundation ranked Tennessee taxes groceries higher than any state in America.

The combined state and local food sales tax averages 9.43%.

Members of the Shelby County Legislative Delegation have tried to trim the tax for years.

Kyle's latest version would lower food sales taxes in the event of state surpluses.

He told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday morning that he wants to gradually do away with food sales taxes altogether.

"I believe there is not any reason why we cannot set a five year goal to do away with the sales tax off of food," he said.

The concept seems more likely than ever because even Gov. Bill Haslam pitched a food sales tax cut in his January State of the State Address.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton says folks on the hill are on the right track.

"I do the grocery shopping for my family and it just hurts me to no end to see a retired or low-income person paying exactly the same tax I pay," he said.

Wharton calls food sales taxes regressive and said people should not have to buy a license to eat or to live.

"I'm talking about basics," Wharton said. "I'm not talking about caviar. I'm talking about a loaf of bread, a carton of milk and a dozen eggs."

Kyle's food sales tax cut has several hurdles to pass in the House and Senate before it's a done deal. And with other lawmakers outside of Memphis pitching their own versions of a food sales tax cut, it's unclear which bill could pass.

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