A proposed tax hike on tobacco and alcohol could aid in state budget woes, but may also leave businesses feeling hung out to dry.
Gov. Sam Brownback's proposal would double the tax on liquor stores from 8 percent to 16 percent. For stores like Culver's Wines and Spirits in McPherson, that's a significant jump.
"Personally, I don't like it," said Debbie Beatey, store manager. "It's one thing to raise the tax by a percent or two, but you can't just double it."
Brownback's proposal also calls to increase the tax on cigarettes by $1, from $1.29 to $2.29. The legislature last increased the cigarette tax in 2015, when the tax rose 50 cents. This sharp rise in price could cause customers to buy cheaper products or buy less, which in turn hits businesses in the bottom line.
"It's obvious. That's more money out of people's pockets, and people are having a tough time as it is," Beatey said.
Though liquor stores may feel the most backlash, bars and restaurants are required to buy some products from liquor stores and they won’t escape the enforcement tax at the register. However, John Penick, designer for The Fieldhouse Sports Grill and Taps, thinks the consequences will be far less dire for his business.
"I don't see a whole lot of change. It's not going to stop people from going out," he said. "If people want to go out, they will."
While he thinks its possible people may go for lower-dollar alcohol or skip the drinks entirely, he's confident the nature of restaurants will reduce how much customers change their buying habits.
"People don't look as much at the tax when they're out to eat," he said. "I'm sure some people will consider the tax, but I don't think most will."
The governor's tax plan is merely a proposal, and the Kansas State Legislature would be responsible for turning his plan into policy.
The plan is intended to plug a projected $342 million shortfall in its current budget, and also includes selling off the state's right to collect a share of revenues from a 1990s legal settlement between states and tobacco companies, diverting funds for highway projects to general government programs, scaling back the state's contributions to public employees' pensions, and liquidating a $317 million state investment fund.
Legislators have been critical of the governor's plan, but indicated Wednesday they may go along with it in lieu of cutting spending.
Critics of the tax increase say rising prices will drive Kansans to buy in other states with more lenient tax burdens.
Beatey said while she doesn't expect anyone from McPherson County to make a trip for alcohol or cigarettes, they may consider purchasing out-of-state when it's convenient.
"The price of fuel negates the benefit of driving out-of-state just for alcohol, but if they're already going there, I wouldn't be surprised if they stopped along the way," she said.