Legislators representing Milford on both sides of the aisle criticized a potential new tax on food.

Rep. Kathy Kennedy (R-119) and Rep. Charles Ferraro (R-117) joined Senate and House Republican colleagues in opposing a 7.35 percent tax they said “could potentially encompass all cooked food from a rotisserie chicken to eight ounces of soup,” blaming Democrats.

“Earlier this year, Democrat lawmakers labeled the new tax as only a 1% tax increase on items already taxed at 6.35%, but the DRS statement clarifies that the new 7.35% tax will also apply to many food items that have never been taxed at all before when sold in grocery stores,” according to the Republican statement.

“The DRS document explains that items sold at restaurants and eateries currently taxed at 6.35% will see a 1% tax increase,” the GOP lawmakers continued. “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.”

But Democratic state Sen James Maroney and Rep. Kim Rose also expressed their opposition to the the Department of Revenue Services interpretation they said opened the door to the surcharge, part of a new levy on grocery store items slated to go into effect Oct. 1. They called for the department to change its interpretation.

“The tax will apply to not only prepared meals such as sandwiches, deli salads, pizza and hot buffet items, but also 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,’” according to a statement from the Milford Republicans.

“The revealing details of this new tax hike are truly frightening and will hurt the working and middle class families of Milford and Orange, taking more and more out of people’s wallets every day,” Kennedy said. “The grocery tax will punish the very people who can afford it the least.”

In their own statement, the Democrats criticized the Department of Revenue Services for allowing the tax.

“The department’s interpretation of the budget broadens the base on meals and beverages covered by the sales tax, which is not the legislative intent of the budget and goes against the interpretation of all three nonpartisan offices,” according to a statement from Maroney and Rose. “This interpretation would lead to a different fiscal note from the Office of Fiscal Analysis. DRS did not provide any feedback when the budget was heard in committee, nor did they when the language was included in the tax package that was voted out of the Finance Committee.”

Maroney joined the state Senate Democratic Caucus Monday, Sept. 16, signing a letter to Commissioner Scott D. Jackson requesting the DRS revise their interpretation.

“I am deeply disappointed in the Department of Revenue Services interpretation of the budget and decision to expand the restaurant tax to prepared foods sold in grocery stores,” Maroney said in a press release. “This was not the intent of this budget. When I voted for this budget, I did so encouraged by the fact it will close a $3.7 billion deficit, expand our rainy day fund to $2.7 billion, eliminate the business entity tax, stop taxes on social security income and set aside funding for a program to help veteran’s find advanced manufacturing jobs. I am hopeful DRS will revise their policy statement so it fulfills its original intent.”

“These DRS guidelines are not only confusing, but are also way out of step with what we wrote in the year’s budget,” said Rose. “The budget takes solid steps toward ensuring fiscal stability in our state, but not by balancing books off the backs of working families. I hope that Commissioner Jackson and his team over at DRS will reconsider these guidelines. Shame on my colleagues across the aisle for continuing to resort to bad faith press conferences rather than an honest conversation. Let’s fix this together.”

“This is deeply concerning that this news comes out after we debated the state budget during the session,” Ferraro said in a statement. “The majority party crafted this state budget and included this language that will hurt all Connecticut families. Will they fix it or continue to pass tax increases that punish working families?”

Both Kennedy and Ferraro said Gov. Ned Lamont assured Connecticut residents in February that grocery tax proposal was dead. In fact, Gov. Lamont says it was “never alive.”

Maroney and Rose objected to the reaction from Republicans, who never proposed a budget this year.