Updated, 1:44 p.m.: Comment from Norwalk Democratic legislators Bob Duff, Lucy Dathan and Chris Perone.
NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Republican legislators have joined their party’s condemnation of this year’s controversial tax hike on prepared foods.
“Beware the grocery tax in disguise,” State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) said, in a press release.
“These taxes do not fix the long-term, underlying problems of mismanaged spending in the State of Connecticut; they merely transfer our financial problems onto our residents once again,” State Rep. Terri Wood (R-141) is quoted as saying in another. “It will burden our elderly citizens and young families the most.”
The tax is set to be enacted on Oct. 1. Last week, Department of Revenue Services (DRS) released guidelines showing the tax would hit a much broader range of products than many lawmakers anticipated.
“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,’” CTMirror.org reports. Instead, the tax 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.
Lavielle, Ranking Member of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, called the tax a “surreptitious, backdoor way” into taxing food items that unsuspecting residents had expected to remain exempt from this year’s new state tax laws.
“The tax will apply to not only prepared meals such as sandwiches, deli salads, pizza, rotisserie chickens, and hot buffet items, but also to containers of lettuce, small packages of snacks, loose baked goods, wrapped salads, small servings of ice cream, and meal replacement bars. It also applies to fountain drinks including coffee and any beverage sold with a taxable ‘meal,’” her press release said.
“Back in February, Gov. Lamont fielded the idea of expanding the sales tax to groceries, but due to a massive public outcry, he reconsidered. Now we know that, in the end, majority Democrats accomplished much of what the governor had been attempting to do all along, just more discretely,” Lavielle is quoted as saying. “If you thought that most of what you were buying at the grocery store was not considered a prepared meal, think again. From Oct. 1, you’ll likely see a noticeable increase in your grocery bills. People like seniors on fixed incomes, students with limited budgets, those who work long hours and often buy food to go, and those living alone who buy food items in small quantities will be hit especially hard. Next time you visit your neighborhood supermarket looking for a quick, economical meal after a long day at work, beware the grocery tax in disguise.”
“While larger packages of food – for example, six dinner rolls or a dozen muffins – are not going to be taxed, smaller ones – like two bagels or a single nutrition bar – will,” Wood, a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, is quoted as saying. “Though you may only have one or two people to feed/cook for, you will actually end up paying more! In addition, parents who sometimes need to pick up a quick rotisserie chicken or some already-prepared meal items between school pick-up and sports practices, etc. will also be paying more to feed their children. I am speechless at the absurdity of these new taxes.”
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 cut taxes for seniors, cut taxes on pensions, cut taxes for businesses, closed a $3.7 billion deficit, and built the largest Rainy Day fund in the state’s history. Locally Norwalk schools will see an increase in state funding and a new grant for the Norwalk High School Robotics Club. 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. The people of Connecticut deserve an honest and balanced budget proposal from the Republicans in the legislature instead of more politics and showmanship.”
“Democrats have said Republican criticisms of the budget are unfair, given that the GOP offered no plan of its own last spring,” the Mirror reports. “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.”
“The DRS document explains that items sold at restaurants and eateries currently taxed at 6.35% will see a 1% tax increase,” Wood’s press release states. “It also clarifies that the total 7.35% tax rate will also be effective in grocery stores, ‘which previously taxed meals in a different manner than other eating establishments.’”
Lavielle’s release offers much information provided by DRS:
DRS Examples of Taxable “Meals” (taxed at 7.35% in eating establishments AND grocery stores):
- Sandwiches, grinders, and wraps;
- Popsicles, ice cream cones, cups, sundaes, and other individual servings of frozen desserts unless sold in factory prepackaged 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 or 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 (5 or fewer);
- Cookies sold loose (5 or fewer when cookies are sold by quantity, or less than 8 ounces when cookies are sold by weight);
- Pies or cakes by the slice;
- Prepackaged 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 prepackaged 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 prepackaged units;
- 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 limits specified above.
DRS Examples of Taxable Drinks (taxed at 7.35% in eating establishments AND grocery stores):
- Beer, including nonalcoholic beer; & wine
- 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;
- Hot chocolate;
- Syrup-flavored crushed ice drinks.