It was reported this week that newly-elected Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is considering a plan to place a tax on items not previously subjected to sales tax in an effort to dig the state out of its budget mess.
According to the CTMirror, Lamont could propose taxing groceries and medications which have been exempt from the state’s 6.35 percent sales tax. Groceries, for example, would only be subject to a 2 percent tax, according to the CTMirror. While food and medicine aren’t the only items that are tax exempt in Connecticut, the possibility of taxing two things that people cannot live without, is a desperate reaction to a lingering problem - that being that the state has been teetering on the brink of financial disaster for almost 10 years and now faces a budget deficit of more than $1.5 billion.
The ramifications of a tax on food and medicine could be widespread and hurt the most vulnerable residents, namely the working poor, the elderly on fixed incomes and middle class families.
What would be the affect of a food tax on those who are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP for example? SNAP benefits are barred from taxation, but food assistance benefits only stretch so far and individuals end up purchasing some food items themselves which could be taxed.
And what about the chronically ill, the disabled and the elderly? Thousands are forced to choose between getting their medicine and buying groceries. Adding a tax on top of the essentials that many can barely afford would be devastating.
We stress that a proposal to expand the tax base is in the earliest research stages and that Lamont isn’t expected to present his first budget proposal to state lawmakers for several more weeks.
We believe that state officials should consider many different ideas that could help correct Connecticut’s fiscal dilemma. Perhaps an expanded tax on non-essential goods and services would be feasible.
But first, the governor and lawmakers must identify the missteps and poor decisions that brought the state to this crisis and repair them before moving forward.
Simply slapping a tax Band-Aid on the budget in the hope that it will stop the bleeding is not the answer.