With weeks to go before a sales tax increase is set to go into effect for certain foods and drinks at grocery stores and restaurants, the governor is calling for a review of the interpretation of the law.
The sales tax is set to go up 1 percent on Oct. 1, raising the tax to 7.35 percent.
When the Department of Revenue Services previously revealed the list of what will be affected Republican lawmakers raised concerns about how many things would be taxed at the higher rate. Items on the list include salad, macaroni salad and soup in containers that are 8 ounces or smaller, rotisserie chickens, and rolls and bagels when you buy five or less. See the full list below.
Their state party vice chair Sue Hatfield posted about the issue on Facebook.
“Items such as chickens will be taxed an extra 1 percent. So I’m going to refer to this new tax as the chicken tax,” said Hatfield.
Republicans argued the tax will also target items most people consider groceries that should be tax-free and blasted the plan to also apply the roughly 7 percent tax to meal replacement bars, individual frozen desserts and snack bags weighing less than five ounces.
Democrats previously pointed out the change was part of a budget that required closing a multi-billion-dollar deficit.
On Monday, Democratic Senate leaders put the blame on the state Department of Revenue Services for misrepresenting the law and sent a letter, calling for it to change its interpretation of the sales tax application to meals.
"We were shocked to see that DRS has somehow interpreted the language in the budget (PA. 19-117) to significantly broaden the base on what meals and beverages would be covered by the sales tax. This interpretation goes against the legislative intent of the new law and against the interpretation of the new law by all three of our nonpartisan offices," Senate Democrats wrote in a letter to Department of Revenue Commissioner Scott Jackson.
Gov. Ned Lamont Tweeted Monday that he wants to ensure that the budget that lawmakers approved is “enacted in the spirit in which it was passed” and the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and the commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services to look into it.
A spokesperson for the Department of Revenue Services wrote, "The Department of Revenue Services (DRS), in consultation with colleagues at the Office of Policy and Management, will begin the process of reviewing policy guidance concerning meals immediately, as directed by Governor Lamont. DRS plans to issue a revised document by the end of this week."
On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) issued a new statement, blaming the Democrats.
“Connecticut Democrats cannot own up to their mistakes. It’s absurd that Democrats are blaming a commissioner whose job is to enforce the law that they wrote. The DRS Commissioner isn’t the one who wants to tax people on their groceries. He is doing his job and reading the law that Democrats drafted and passed. For Democrat lawmakers, and now the governor in yet another flip flop, to lay blame on the DRS Commissioner and ask him to ignore the very language that they wrote is absurd. What good is any law if it can simply be ignored by request of a legislator?," he wrote.
There was no immediate response from Democrats.
The Connecticut Food Association released a statement, saying the initlal plan was broader than grocers expected.
"It is our understanding that Department of Revenue Services is reworking their guidance and that its initial plan was broader than any of us in the grocery community had anticipated. In its current form this tax places additional hardship on seniors, single folks and those with limited funds. It also handicaps smaller independent grocery stores that don’t sell a large quantity of bulk items like big box retailers," the statement says.