Governor Ned Lamont has recently called for taxing goods and services in Connecticut that have been exempt from sales tax, including college textbooks. This is not an ideal way to raise revenue for the state, and is frankly unfair to many people who are already struggling financially.
According to a Hartford Courant article, Lamont is trying to modernize the sales tax for today’s economy, which he said is driven by “e-commerce, digital downloads and consumer services.” This is reflected in a proposed tax increase on digital downloads. Thus, not only physical textbooks would be taxed, but students who also buy digital textbooks would have to pay a 6.35 percent sales tax on their online books as well. In proposing this, Lamont misses that the economy is also driven by education, and making it harder for more students to have access to textbooks and other course materials is only going to hurt education. Connecticut should be focusing on improving its universities and making sure as many people get college degrees as possible, and increasing the price of textbooks is detrimental to that cause.
Most of the tax expansions proposed by Lamont will only hurt people with less income. The nature of increasing the amount of goods and services that are taxed is that it disproportionally affects those with lower income because the tax is a larger portion of their budget. Many of the goods and services now proposed to be taxed are essential, so avoiding the additional expenses will be nearly impossible. For instance, Lamont wants to start taxing non-prescription drugs. It would not be possible to avoid paying the extra money for medicine because everyone needs non-prescription drugs at some point. Therefore, when people get colds in Connecticut, they will be paying more, and for those with less income, the increase will hit much harder than it will for the wealthier.
Instead of expanding sales tax and unfairly burdening the poor more, Lamont should focus on decreasing state spending. After all, his budget increases spending by 1.7 percent in the first year it is implemented and 3.4 percent in the second year. Decreasing state spending would be preferable to taxing goods and services that are already hard enough to obtain such as textbooks. Also, state democrats have pointed out that the income tax should be used to raise revenue rather than the sales tax because this will place more of a burden on the wealthier Connecticut residents than the poor. This is another good idea because the wealthier can afford to pay more tax than those with less income.
Lamont also wants to get rid of tax free week, which is usually in August just in time for back-to-school shopping. This tradition usually gives retail stores a boost in business and getting rid of it would only hurt business owners, as well as shoppers who look to save money during this week. The $5 million that the state loses from this week could perhaps be kept by reducing spending.
It seems like an easy solution to simply increase the amount of goods and services that are taxed, but other possible solutions should be explored fully before the state resorts to taxing things like textbooks. Connecticut voters were already concerned that Lamont would increase taxes, and he is proving them right; he should listen to what Connecticut voters want and only add additional sales taxes as a last resort.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for the The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.