Area legislators address CT’s grocery tax

State Sen. Henri Martin, left, joined House and Senate Republicans to call upon the governor to bring the legislature into special session to fix a tax on groceries that is set to go into effect in October.

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Connecticut Department of Revenue Services recently announced that a 1% increase would be added to the state’s sales and use tax. A policy statement released by DRS calls for a tax of 7.35% on pre-prepared meals.

The policy statement reads, “The sale of all meals, regardless of cost, is subject to sales and use taxes at the rate of 6.35% for sales occurring on and before Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, and at the rate of 7.35% for sales occurring on and after Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.”

In the same statement, DRS defines a “meal,” as “food products that are furnished, prepared, or served in such a form and in such portions that they are ready for immediate consumption. A “meal” includes food products that are sold on a “take out” or “to go” basis and that are actually packaged or wrapped.”

Many area representatives and senators have spoken out against the tax, with one even calling for a special session of the legislature to address the increase.

State Rep. Liz Linehan (D-Cheshire, Southington, and Wallingford) wrote a letter to DRS Commissioner Scott Jackson where she said that the office of fiscal analysis conducted a preliminary analysis of the sales and use tax on meals.

“The agency’s new policy will generate significant revenue beyond what was projected to be collected as part of the budget, which in addition to being unnecessary, I believe to be troublesome and against the processes set forth and followed by the legislature,” Linehan said in a press release. “The budget passed this last session was a fair, balanced budget, and the additional revenue expected by the DRS’s unilateral proposal, without any knowledge of the legislature, is unnecessary, and therefore, must be reversed.”

State Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato (R-Bristol, New Britain) described the new tax as a “money grab,” in a joint statement with state representatives Whit Betts (R-Bristol, Plymouth) and Dr. William Petit Jr. (R-Plainville,  New Britain).

“I am appalled that we are even in a position where we need the governor to repeal a new tax on groceries that would be detrimental to underemployed populations in Connecticut,” said Pavalock-D’Amato. “These new taxes should have never been included in the budget to begin with, but they were cunningly implemented into the state budget.”

“I hope the governor will realize that these tax increases will have a negative impact on all consumers but particularly those with lower and middle incomes, and will also complicate the day-to-day operations for businesses,” said Petit in a release.

State Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Southington, Wolcott, Prospect) said in a press release that “the new 7.35% tax will also apply to many good items that have never been taxed at all before when sold in grocery stores,” and “the policy also results in a tax increase on food items sold by restaurants and eating establishments.”

Sampson’s release included a list of food and beverage items that will be affected under the new tax, including but not limited to: sandwiches, grinders, wraps; popsicles, ice cream cones, cups, sundaes, and other individual servings of frozen desserts unless sold in factory pre-packaged multi-unit packs; ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other frozen desserts sold in containers of less than one pint; salads sold at salad bars; lettuce or greens-based salads sold in containers of 8 ounces of less; salads that are not greens-based (macaroni, potato, pasta, fruit, etc.) sold in containers of 8 ounces or less; donuts, muffins, rolls, bagels, and pastries (five or fewer); cookies sold loose (five or fewer when cookies are sold by quantity, or less than 8 ounces when cookies are sold be weight); pies or cakes by the slice; pre-packaged or factory-sealed bags or packages of 5 ounces or less of chips, popcorn, kettle corn, nuts, trail mix, crackers, cookies, snack cakes, or other snack foods, unless sold in factory pre-packaged multi-unit packs; pizza, whole or by the slice; cooked chicken sold by the piece, including buckets of chicken, and whole cooked chickens; cooked ribs sold by the piece or portion and whole racks of ribs; hot dogs served on a bun or heated; bagels that are individually prepared; soup sold in containers of 8 ounces or less, unless sold in factory pre-packaged units; smoothies; meal replacement bars; all beverages provided with the sale of a taxable meal; food sold at a hot buffet; food that is cooked to order; popcorn, kettle corn, nuts and any other snack foods that are kept warm for purchase; and items such as salads, side dishes, and rolls, when sold as part of family pack meals typically including, whole chickens or buckets of chicken, when prepared and sold for immediate consumption, even when the items exceed the weight or quantity of limits above.

Beverages that will be affected by the tax include: beer, including nonalcoholic beer; fruit juices, sweetened beverages, soft drinks, and soda; carbonated water; coffee or tea (ready to consume, hot or iced); distilled alcohol such as brandy, rum, whiskey, gin, vodka, and tequila; fountain drinks of any kind; hard cider; kombucha tea, and other naturally carbonated beverages; malt liquor; milkshakes; hot chocolate; syrup-flavored crushed ice drinks; and wine.

The DRS policy statement also specifically names several styles of eating establishments where meals will also be affected by the tax, including: banquet halls; bars; big-box retailers; cafeterias; caterers; cocktail lounges; coffee or donut shops; convenience stores; delicatessens; diners; discount stores; drive-ins; fast food outlets; fish markets; food trucks; grinder shops; grocery stores; health food stores; hot dog carts; hotels or boarding houses; ice cream trucks; online retailers; pharmacies or drug stores; pizzerias; private or social clubs; refreshment stands; restaurants; sandwich shops; snack bars; specialty food stores; street vendors; supermarkets; sushi bars; taverns; variety stores; and vitamin stores.

“These new taxes are a prime example of the same tax-and-spend mentality that we have seen the majority party Democrats use year over year. Connecticut residents are taxed on mattresses, digital downloads, they pay a passport to parks fee, and now an additional tax when they trade in their car or go grocery shopping. When will this end?” said Betts in a press release. “I urge this unfair tax to be repealed immediately given the projected surplus in the state budget, and the billions of dollars in the rainy day fund.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.