In February, the Hartford Courant published an article titled “No big tax hikes and fiscal restraint: 7 things to watch for as Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont releases his new budget Wednesday.” For local Connecticut farms, the Governor’s commitment to reject any tax increases this fiscal year came as a huge relief after months of financial hardship in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, however, the Governor’s rhetoric didn’t completely match up with the budget he would soon propose.
The Governor’s budget contains a new tax on health insurance plans that will impact local businesses that provide health care for their employees, and their families. Unfortunately, the Governor isn’t alone in proposing this tax — the Connecticut General Assembly has also similarly proposed a tax on health insurance, included in a bill around the public option, SB 842. If passed into law, this tax would increase costs for local businesses and their employees. At a time when there are billions in federal stimulus dollars coming to Connecticut, the last thing Connecticut needs is a new tax on health plans.
At the Connecticut Farm Bureau, we strive to improve the quality of life not only for Connecticut farmers, but for those that rely on our state’s farming industry as a source of food. Connecticut’s agriculture provides fresh food and produce to farmers markets and grocery stores all across Connecticut and the region, contributing $4 billion to the state’s economy and supporting over 20,000 jobs. We cannot expect that our farmers, as well as local businesses across the state, can afford the increased costs that will come with this tax.
One thing that local farms and business owners across our state have in common is that they strive to take care of their employees – they’re proud to provide them and their families with health insurance. And right now, that is more important than ever in an unprecedented health crisis, where farmers and their families need healthcare to ensure that they stay healthy, or if they become sick, that they can access the care they need to get better.
This year has not been easy for any of us, and our farmers are doing their best to provide for both their families and their employees. This proposed health insurance tax would be one more burden on local businesses that have already been stretched thin, and simply cannot take anymore. Not only do Connecticut consumers already pay nearly $700 annually in additional taxes on their health coverage, our state has a budget surplus, including $40 billion that President Biden is sending to help make healthcare more affordable. If state leaders want to create additional revenue for the state, they should do so in a way that doesn’t harm Connecticut’s local farmers and other businesses. We’re already struggling enough.
Farmworkers need the safety-net of their health coverage. At the Connecticut Farm Bureau, we are helping farms stay focused on making it through the economic hardships resulting from the pandemic and keeping people employed. If Connecticut’s elected officials move forward with a health insurance tax, they would be letting down their constituents across the state looking for them to help in this difficult time, and that includes the more than 5,000 farms in Connecticut and their employees.
We strongly urge our Governor and lawmakers to reconsider their proposals to impose a new tax on the people who need their health insurance the most.
Joan Nichols is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association.
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