Prepared food tax will hit consumers harder than lawmakers thought

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven. (CTMirror.org/

A controversial tax hike on prepared foods will hit Connecticut shoppers much harder than legislators thought, raking in $158 million over this fiscal year and next — nearly 40% more than lawmakers anticipated.

That’s according to a new revenue forecast Friday from nonpartisan analysts that also shows the tax hike will collect more than $90 million annually from consumers by the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Minority Republicans in the Senate and House asked the Office of Fiscal Analysis on Thursday to revise revenue projections after the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) released guidelines showing the tax would hit a much broader range of products than many lawmakers anticipated.

“I think this is egregious behavior by the Democrats,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, referring to the sales tax surcharge on prepared foods enacted last June by the legislature’s Democratic majority and signed by Gov. Ned Lamont, also a Democrat. “For the elderly, for the single mom, for the people struggling every day, this is going to tax them to death.”

Fasano and Deputy House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, disclosed the DRS guidelines at a press conference Thursday. 

The tax hike was described — when legislators adopted a new state budget in early June — largely as a 1% surcharge on restaurant food or on “prepared meals.” In other words, someone who purchased a grinder and small soda combination, even at a supermarket, would pay 7.35% sales tax, rather than the base rate of 6.35%.

Yet when DRS released a policy statement this month instructing retailers on how to apply the new tax, which takes effect Oct. 1, it covered a much wider range of prepared foods.


Both Fasano and Candelora also said that while nonpartisan analysts responded quickly with a revised estimate of the impact on consumers, they fear it might be conservative.

Connecticut retailers likely will be very diligent in applying the tax to any item that might be interpreted as prepared foods “when you have the grim reaper of DRS standing over your shoulder,” Candelora said.

Neither Lamont’s office nor Democratic legislative leaders immediately commented Friday on the new projection from the Office of Fiscal Analysis.

But Democrats have said Republican criticisms of the budget are unfair, given that the GOP offered no plan of its own last spring.

Democratic lawmakers and Lamont averted a multi-billion-dollar projected deficit in the two-year budget without increasing income tax rates, but Democrats said that meant making many tough decisions.

“It’s apparently easier for the GOP to criticize rather than do the work of presenting their own budget,” Max Reiss, Lamont’s communications director said after Thursday’s press conference by Fasano and Candelora. “Connecticut will have the largest rainy day fund in history and this budget maintains and grows our reserves, providing reliability and predictability for our taxpayers, businesses, and those looking to invest in our state well into the future.”

“I’m still waiting for the Republican budget,” Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said Thursday. “I feel it is a little bit disingenuous.”


Sue Haynie September 14, 2019 at 6:44 am

Democrats love to spend other people’s money in order to plug holes from previous overspending

It is ‘disingenuous’ for the Democrats to not take responsibility for this tax hike as they had the votes to pummel through their budget w/out input from Republicans. Own it Democrats. This is yours.

Red headed movie star September 14, 2019 at 10:08 am

Horrendous! individual ice cream? 5 or less cookies? prepared salads?
This angers me so very deeply 7.35%!!! and they gave state employees raises and already robbed the “lock boxed” transportation fund. How about thinking of the poor, the retired* and definitely the middle class, that gets screwed every time!!!!
I do not want to leave CT but I just may have to.
*retired are sometime widows and widowers and only buy one or two cookies, etc. so it hits them hard as well as single parents!
Businesses must be an in uproar, cost of goods will go up due to reprograming registers! Thank you, Democrats!

Piberman September 14, 2019 at 10:30 am

CT Dems are giving the nation an economics lesson in the consequences of “tax and spend” policies. Amidst a booming national economy CT looks well positioned to enter its 2nd decade of economic stagnation and Exodus. Economists don’t often have the privilege of watching “experiments” in how public finance works out. But CT’s “tax and spend “ policies are being closely watched.

Ursula Caterbone September 14, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Our greedy Governor and short sighted legislators who are responsible for this new tax have finally gone too far. What were they thinking? If their goal is to drive retirees and couples and singles of all ages out of the state this will be the tax that does the trick.
I’m guessing anyone who thought this tax was a good idea doesn’t shop for groceries. A five ounce container of spinach is a normal size and it’s not take out food. Salad greens in plastic is the only form they come in unless you can buy them at a farmers market. They are not take out food. Buying a larger size to avoid the tax just means food gone to waste. Hartford may have determined that grocery store prepared pieces of chicken for one are take out food, but how many individual serving size packages of uncooked chicken have you seen in your grocery store?
This tax discriminates against child free couples and singles of any age while at the same time we pay more income tax then singles and couples with children.

This tax has to be stopped. Maybe if we started a boycott and ordered most of our groceries from out of state for one week everyone responsible for imposing this tax on us would realize what a hair brained idea it is. Unfortunately that move would be at the expense of our local grocery stores so we’ll have to come up with another means. Oh wait, I know. We’ll vote them out.

Alice September 14, 2019 at 1:52 pm

Another hand in the pockets of our senior citizens.
Our illustrious lawmakers, who make oodles of money, gave NO
thought as to how this will affect the elderly who live alone and use these items rather than cook for themselves or don’t need more than 1 or 2 rolls, donuts or whatever. It’s really pathetic!!

Tysen Canevari September 14, 2019 at 4:59 pm

What is next? Toilet paper tax and wipes tax? When does it end CT Dems? It is truly disheartening to live here.

Ursula Caterbone September 14, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Does our Governor lie awake nights thinking of ways to sneak new taxes on us?
Or did he have a Eurekac moment?
“Hey, I just realized since we get away with taxing Connecticut on restaurant food why not tax ‘em on all food they didn’t cook themselves”. How can we tax ‘em on food they ate when they visited Mom’s house? How can we tax ‘em on food they ate at a friend’s dinner party or a neighbor’s barbeque? Let’s sneak in a way to tax ‘em when they eat at a wedding reception. Maybe we can base the tax on the value of their gift.
When a salesman takes a customer to lunch the customer is getting a free meal he didn’t cook himself. We can’t have that. Tax ‘em.
And what about all those freeloading dogs and cats out there. Tax ‘em.

Andrew September 14, 2019 at 7:38 pm

Everybody is blaming the governor; but, many of these questions should be directed at Norwalk’s legislators who voted for the budget that the governor signed. They wrote it and knew what it included.

Jo September 15, 2019 at 9:17 am

Alice, our legislators only make $28k per year. That said, they are only in session part time.
I ordinarily wish Len Fasano would shut his piehole. But I think this tax could change where my votes swing in 2020 state elections. BIG mistake.

John ONeill September 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm

One word…DISGRACE. .These people have no idea what they are doing…at least I hope that’s the case. If this was their actual plan, they are screwing lower income people. Has Bob Duff offered his opinion on this?

RayJ September 16, 2019 at 11:06 am

On Sunday, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) and State Representatives Lucy Dathan (D-142) and Chris Perone (D-137) released this statement:
“The Democratic budget ………built the largest Rainy Day fund in the state’s history………
…….. It’s raining !

………………The Republicans have failed the residents of this state by proposing no budget, no ideas, nor any solutions of their own. Then they have the gall to be critical……..

……………….Gall? Oh the outrage Bob!

Red headed movie star September 16, 2019 at 11:45 am

$28,000. a year and they have other jobs or businesses. They CHOOSE to be in public office. Bob Duff and Chris Perone please do us a favor put in motion steps to rescind this idiotic tax bill or RESIGN!!
Personally, I favor your resignations so we can elect members that have our interests at heart.
Darn, I’m really disgusted at this bill and members that voted for it.

John ONeill September 16, 2019 at 6:57 pm

Let’s see if I understand this. I go to Stop&Shop and buy 5 donuts, I’m taxed. However, if I buy 6 donuts I’m not taxed. Geez, that makes a lot of sense. What will that do to my waist line??
Lower income people tend to buy meals at grocery stores, not restaurants, so they’ll be taxed 7.35% for that privilege. I thought Democrats were the beacon for lower economic groups? I thought wrong. My Dad lives alone and buys salads, light meals at Stop & Shop. Guess what – he’s going to need state help to make up for that 7.35%. I guess he can always turn down the heat at home to compensate for that tax. The positive it will force him to keep moving around when it’s cold in order to stay warm.
The arrogance and duplicity in Hartford continues to shock me. I guess that 6th donut will help deal with that shock. In conclusion, I’d like to thank our local reps for reinforcing the adage “In politics, an absurdity is not a handicap”. Keep up the good work.

Bryan Meek September 17, 2019 at 6:14 pm

Had the legislature simply raised the sales tax to 6.5% from 6.35% on the existing basket of taxable items, it would have generated similar revenue without putting the retail sector on the hook for massive labor, packaging, and systems costs to implement the collection of these new taxes on food.

This State. Simply. Hates. Business.

Next up, we’ll need to hire 100s more Department of Revenue employees to collect and process what amounts to 0.5% of the states total revenues. Maybe that was the intent of the new taxes in the first place?

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