Report by Paulas Antolini, September 29, 2019, 9:40AM EDT
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While CT Democrats are continuing to both deny the tax existed and claim to have “fixed” it, here’s what you need to know…
My recent op-ed as it appeared in the Hartford Courant:
Reading through my emails the other day, I had to do a double take.
“Democrats Stop the Grocery Tax, Again.”
That was the subject line of multiple emails I received from Democrat lawmakers.
These emails came just a day after Democrats said the grocery tax was never real, and simply invented by “Republican misinformation,” and a week after Gov. Ned Lamont said Democrats needed the money from a grocery tax to balance their budget.
When it comes to the state’s new food taxes, Democrats started the fire. Now they are trying to take credit for putting it out.
The reality is they didn’t even bring water buckets to their smoldering mess. They just shouted for help and waited for someone else to try to fix it.
The “fix” came in the form of Gov. Lamont forcing his Department of Revenue Services Commissioner to “reinterpret” the law and issue an alternative “defensible” reading. It’s nowhere near a permanent solution. In fact, it still requires higher taxes on many items at grocery stores and markets, showing how disingenuous the Democrats’ initial labeling of this as merely a “restaurant tax” really was. The language of the law remains unchanged and still puts taxpayers in danger of seeing the sales tax expanded to many more grocery store items in the future.
The only way to fix the law is to change the language and pass a new statute. But Democrats refuse, because either they can’t admit they made a mistake, or at some point when the public isn’t looking, they plan to enforce the existing language, tax groceries and hide behind the language of the law.
There’s a pattern to the hypocrisy of Connecticut Democrats. They create problems, deny responsibility then try to swoop in to save the day with inadequate fixes that only leave people more vulnerable in the future.
The grocery tax is a prime example.
The budget passed by Democrats had a tax on many food items never taxed before when sold in grocery stores. That was the conclusion of the DRS, an executive branch office also run by Democrats, after reading the budget objectively.
When the DRS guidance detailing which items would be subject to the grocery tax was released, not one Democrat leader or rank-and-file lawmaker said a word about the DRS conclusion. If DRS truly misinterpreted their intent, why not sound the alarm as soon as they read the DRS guidance? Silence is a clear admission that the Democrats’ true intent was always to tax these items.
It was only after Republicans raised concerns about this tax, followed by media attention and public outcry, that some Democrats started to weigh in and backpedal. The governor’s initial response was that we needed the grocery tax money and it was really about fairness — clearly this was what Democrats intended the tax to be.
But slowly, Gov. Lamont and Democrat lawmakers shifted gears. In a pathetic effort to disassociate themselves with the tax, Democrats threw the DRS commissioner and his staff under the bus and made them the scapegoat for the Democrat budget.
The Democrats, who claim to be the protectors of all that is good, used bully tactics to force the DRS commissioner to revise his fair reading of the statute. Even with all of the bullying, the commissioner held to his strongly rooted principals the best he could, refusing to concede to the Democrats accusatory attacks and instead offering an alternative, “defensible” interpretation of the law. In other words, in the future, groceries could still be taxed.
In the same budget, Democrats required the Department of Social Services to cut $5.3 million from nursing homes. As instructed by Democrat lawmakers, DSS implemented that policy. But as soon as those cuts faced public outcry, Democrats blamed DSS and demanded the agency disregard the law Democrats themselves authored and instead delay the cuts. A delay does not resolve the problem. Yet even as it stands today, Republicans are the only ones who have called for legislative action to correct it. Democrats have refused.
The hypocritical nature of what Connecticut Democrats say versus what they do stems from putting politics and power before people.
Connecticut residents are not fooled.
Taxpayers will remember.
State Senator Len Fasano
300 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106