Oklahoma legislators challenge grocery tax, to help food insecure families

September 22, 2021

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma is one of a handful of states to charge an extra fee at the grocery checkout.

Now, state legislators are hammering down a bill to get rid of the state's 4.5 percent grocery sales tax.

“A tax like that weighs much more heavily on working families," Representative John Waldron, (D) Tulsa said.

Waldron is one legislator working to remove Oklahoma from the list of 13 states, and Washington D.C., that impose an additional tax on grocery-bought items.

Bailey Perkins Wright of The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma said the pandemic caused devastation for hungry families. The Food Research and Action Center reports Oklahoma as the fourth-most food insecure state from 2018 to 2020 - Perkins Wright said COVID caused a 30-percent, record-breaking increase in food-needing Oklahomans.

We saw people who had never needed food assistance before visit our partner pantries," she said. "It’s more of a choice between whether they can pay for a prescription, whether they can pay for childcare, whether they can put gas in their gas tank.”

Perkins Wright said one of the ways to make those difficult decisions a little easier for families is to simply make groceries cheaper.

“Working families, they need a break, and we shouldn’t be balancing our budget on their backs," Waldron said.

The grocery tax brings in a substantial dollar figure for the state's annual budget, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The agency estimates $2.9 million in grocery sales tax revenue for Fiscal Year 2022.

“We can find other ways to balance the budget. Ways that are more appropriate and put less of a burden on those who are least able to carry it," Waldron said. "We can do better.”

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