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Republican lawmakers call for special session to fix ‘meal tax’

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– The food fight continues at the state capitol. Fed up republican lawmakers called for a special session to fix the impending “meal tax” on prepared foods.

Governor Ned Lamont has the Department of Revenue Services reviewing the convoluted tax that’s set to take effect October 1.

Republicans want legislators to go back in session to remove the words “grocery store” from the bill before taxes go up on October 1.

“How many of you go into the car and just eat five muffins at once?” said Rep. Themis Klarides. “I guess somebody does. But who’s going to admit to that?”

It’s a fight over “interpretation.” How a new law increasing sales taxes on “prepared foods” is being interpreted by the state

RELATED: Capitol Report: Tax on restaurant meals and supermarket prepared foods is going up

“What happened with this new bill is they took the word grocery store and they put it in statute next to the word catering and eating establishments,” said Sen. Len Fasano (R).

The sales tax increase of one percent goes into effect on October 1st.

Republican leaders lashed out Wednesday, signing petitions calling for lawmakers to go into a special session and remove the words “grocery store” from the bill.

This, after the tax department issued guidance saying the tax applied to a host of new groceries.

“What this bill did is it made it very clear by adding those two words grocery store it opened up a Pandora’s box of all sorts of things to tax,” said Klarides.

“We know what was intended,” said Lamont. “DRS interpreted it more broadly than that.”

A spokesman for Lamont said his office has ordered the Revenue Department to re-examine its guidance and ensure no new items are added to the tax.

RELATED: Lamont says review of newly-taxed, prepared foods is under way

Democratic leaders said they’ll be no need for a special session. They said the bill was misinterpreted and expect the issue to be remedied in the coming days.

“The guiding principle is the revenue figure that we adopted in the budget and what should have been done in this case is DRS should have been guided by that figure,” said Sen. Martin Looney (D).

But Republican leaders said that’s not good enough when the time is of the essence and grocers need to update their systems before next month.

“Businesses and citizens particularly the one that really need the money and count their pennies are going to be affected in a few short days,” said Klarides.

Some local shops said they’re worried about the extra workload the law will bring.

“Currently, the scales don’t have room for 1,000 codes, so it’s going to be a technology nightmare,” said Bob LaBonne of LaBonne’s Market. “So we don’t know if we can actually do this and be compliant by October 1.”

LaBonne said adding to the coding confusion is what exactly qualifies.

“No one is going to eat a whole package of Olivier salad for a single serving, it’s just so confusing, and again I feel bad for the consumers that are now going to be blaming us for this when it’s really not our fault,” he said.

LaBonne met with lawmakers in his store on Wednesday to try and explain the amount of work and stress the law will add to his business and employees.

“Let’s repeal this garbage, and take this onerous ridiculous process off of our merchants,” said Rep. Eric Berthel.

Whatever legislators and the governor’s office agree upon will have to happen quickly because October 1 is just 8 business days away.

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