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Wood & Lavielle slam ‘meals tax passed by majority Democratic legislators’

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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;
  • 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 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;
  • Milkshakes;
  • Hot chocolate;
  • Syrup-flavored crushed ice drinks.

24 comments

Jo September 15, 2019 at 9:07 am

This is asinine. And yet another reason to prompt people to leave Connecticut in droves.

I remember hearing the idea of taxing groceries floated a year or so ago. Can’t believe they snuck it in this way.

Nancy, do you know where to find the voting record for this bill? Would love to see who introduced and said yay to this. Couldn’t ID it in Legiscan or Ballotpedia.

Peter Torrano September 15, 2019 at 9:40 am

And still, despite the continued poor governance of the Democrats, some would still prefer voting for toasters over republicans. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Isabelle Hargrove September 15, 2019 at 9:49 am

Only in politics, do people who get fired, get blamed for their replacements not being able to do their job! CT voters decided to give democrats a super majority last November, Governor Lamont should hold his own majority party accountable instead of deflating.

This is the problem with tax&spend, it hurts the lower middle class the most. All the taxes being pushed by the legislature and Governor Lamont this year are highly regressive; tolls, groceries, payroll taxes, etc…

And where is Mayor Rilling on all this? He is the mayor of a city where nearly 60% of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch. How will all of these families afford the increase in their grocery bills? We have no representation in Hartford from this mayor. We need an advocate, not a yes man with more loyalty to his party than his constituents.

Ursula Caterbone September 15, 2019 at 10:34 am

It’s time for our sneaky governor to do his own grocery shopping a d cooking. Salad greens are not a prepared meal unless you’re a goat or a cow and they only come in plastic containers or bags unless you’re fortunate enough to buy them at a farmers market.

I’ve already gone on and on about this outrageous dishonest dark of night move to squeeze more taxes out of us so I’ll keep this short.
After this robbery is forced on us in October that sucking sound you hear will be the ever bigger stream of retirees leaving our beloved homes for someplace we can afford to live.

Ursula Caterbone September 15, 2019 at 12:06 pm

This is a copy of a suggestion posted in Gail Lavielle’s Facebook page. I’d like to share it here. How effective would it be if everyone who is angry about this new food tax bought our salad greens and other so called prepared food in Costco size packages for a few weeks? We’ll take the leftover spoiled food to Hartford and dump it on the capital steps. We’ll add uncooked chicken and rib pieces that we couldn’t use.
Their gross smell might really help. We’ll dump on unused yogurt and melted ice cream bars and top it off with moldy pie and unused stale moldy bagels and rolls. Videos of us being hauled off to jail could be entitled Boston Tea Party 2019.
Then we convince the news media to interview several legislators who voted for the new tax and watch then squirm trying to explain why they thought it was a good idea.

john flynn September 15, 2019 at 1:19 pm

The GOP is not consulted about anything. If you can’t afford an entire Pizza the tax sold by the slice will be greater?
.
Nothing about these laws make any sense. They are taking away your rights and forcing socialism on you.

Thank you Gail, I truly mean it. I am relying on you.

Tysen Canevari September 15, 2019 at 8:04 pm

The tax me to death state. Wasnt the income tax supposed to be a temporary fix? Increase tax on the staples essential to living; FOOD! I am ashamed to of my state government.

steve September 15, 2019 at 8:13 pm

If you buy the hot dog, purchase the buns, mustard and ketchup and cook em yourself there’s NO TAX. Is someone who pays 2.50 for a cup of coffee that costs 10 to 20Cents going to balk because there total cost rose from 2.68 to 2.70. I can’t get myself in a huff about a 1cent extra dine out tax. Where I can get myself in a huff is over the lost SALT deduction.

Isabelle Hargrove September 16, 2019 at 7:03 am

Senator Duff and Reps. Datham, Sims, and Perone voted for the tax.

Reps Wood and Lavielle voted No.

Regressive taxation is the by-product of refusing to address the fiscal and economic realities of our state. Legislators who continue to support tax&spend as hypocrites not worthy of the votes they seem to freely get each November…

John ONeill September 16, 2019 at 10:06 am

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.

DrewT September 16, 2019 at 10:41 am

One of these days the Voters in Connecticut will WAKE UP! When will they learn that all the Democrats know how to do to solve anything is to impose more, more and more taxes! And people like Duff, Haskell, Perone don’t even have a clue and is very very scary! They can’t even put out the truth in a Press Briefing. Nor can any of them answer a question with a straight face. We knew this was coming and it really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Our representatives in the Democratic party just follow along like little puppy dogs! I beg the Voters in Norwalk and the state to WAKE UP and stop voting for these people before we don’t even have a state to worry about anymore..We are inching ever so closer to the Financial Cliff. They need to STOP Blaming everyone and everything and start blaming themselves for the mess we are in and the more and more taxes that are coming.

RayJ September 16, 2019 at 10:50 am

Duff , Perone et al tax and $pend democrat$, Posturing against tolls and taxes, Reach into the pockets of working poor Again and again. I prefer to buy 1 bagel a day so as to guarantee a fresh one for breakfast. Why am I now selected to pay more? These rules set out on which foods to tax is a figure filberts dream job. Probably paid a software company a million $ to program it with ongoing yearly maintenance of course. My right to a daily bagel!

Red headed movie star September 16, 2019 at 11:33 am

I’m ready to march on Hartford! this is ludicrous!
Shame, shame on those who voted for this bill….

John Miller September 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm

I agree with Fred Wilms that the press release by our legislative contingent simply avoids the topic being discussed. It’s just the normal prefabricated rhetoric that we have come to expect. No mention is ever made of the unfunded pension liabilities which, in 2018, amounted to $9,933 per resident (the third highest in the nation behind New Jersey and Illinois). And Steve, the $10,000 SALT cap does not seem to be a problem in states that are fiscally sound and that don’t spend and tax their residents into oblivion.

Bryan Meek September 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm

The lost SALT deduction affects less than 5% of filers, mostly those who are empty nesters (no dependents) with expensive homes that have high property taxes thanks to the state’s spending schemes. This should make the left happy because they support higher taxes on those who they deem wealthy (expensive homes). But since it was Trump’s idea and not theirs, it gets them bothered.

There has been an effective SALT limitation on the books since the early 70s called Alternative Minimum Tax, for which the floor was also raised from about $150k in income (rich by most lefty standards) to $1 million.

As others have pointed out, SALT wouldn’t even be a factor if we didn’t have massive income and property taxes. Other states that are reasonably managed, do not suffer the same consequences.

Lastly, sales taxes are deductible to the extent that they do not exceed income taxes. Also the standard deduction was doubled which helps most retirees, even those who have expensive homes that Connecticut taxes to death.

John ONeill September 16, 2019 at 2:09 pm

@Steve @Bryan — Full Disclosure Steve: Did your Federal taxes go up or down last year?? Did your State and local taxes go up or down?…Meet me at Stop & Shop and I’ll give you a donut @ 7.35% discount. That may help compensate for non-headline grabbing taxes just passed by CT legislators…

Bryan Meek September 16, 2019 at 7:05 pm

@John. Sorry for not being clearer on my position, which is the state is screwing us and others are using lame excuses about federal tax changes that benefit about 95% of filers. My state taxes went up considerably. Federal down 300bp, mainly due to having dependents and the new business income tax deduction. Some, very few, people were caught in between. Congress could have made some changes to these caught who were caught in the middle, instead the decided to waste a year plus impeaching Trump when they have no votes to get it done. Then we have Hartford creating new business taxes and claiming they help businesses fight the Trump tax cuts. This logic comes from a universe I can’t even begin to fathom.

John ONeill September 16, 2019 at 10:05 pm

Bryan: agreed..my point to steve was not to blame salt and feds for CT issues…we pay less taxes thanks to fed tax act…As far as state taxes…the phrase “death by a thousand cuts” comes to mind..

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