Don’t Balance Budget on Farmer’s Backs

May 19, 2015

Farms in our state could be crippled if a new veterinary tax is passed by the legislature.

I’m very concerned this new proposed tax by the majority party on the state’s Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee will hurt farms like Fairvue Dairy Farm in Woodstock. The estimated state debt is $2.5 billion over the next two years. The majority party is scrambling to find a way to raise revenue. Which in turn means more than two dozen new taxes! Recently, Republicans held a public informational hearing to allow the people to voice their opinion on the majority party’s proposal for these new taxes.

At the hearing Paul Miller, owner Fairvue Farm said, “We spend hundreds of dollars every month to have veterinarian services provided to our milking cows. The vets come in twice a week and charge hourly fees. A service tax on this is going to be extremely expensive.”

This veterinarian service tax is not just about visits with your dog or cat. These farms have livestock to take care of. Imagine the cost of services for 1,200 Holstein milking cows!

As the co-chair of the general assembly’s Rural Caucus, I am in touch with a number of farms in the district. Fairvue, one of the farms behind the successful brand name the “Farmers Cow” has been promoting Connecticut dairy businesses for years, but this new tax could hurt that initiative.

At first it was unclear if farmers were exempt from the tax. But an inquiry to the State Department of Agriculture and State Department of Revenue Services tax specialists confirmed any veterinarian service provided to farmers would be taxable. I believe medical services for livestock are a necessity and therefore should not be taxed.

Poultry farmers would also be greatly affected by the new vet tax. Currently, there are more than 5 million chickens in Connecticut. The Department of Agriculture recently issued an alert to poultry farmers about the spread of avian flu which could ultimately be a catalyst for many veterinarian visits for these farmers.

The legislation passed by the majority party of the Finance Committee states licensed veterinary practitioners primarily engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, dentistry, or surgery for animals; and establishments primarily engaged in providing testing services for licensed veterinary practitioners would have their services taxed.

The estimated amount of money this would generate the state is $17.1 million in FY 2016 and $21.8 million in FY 2017. Adding insult to injury the majority party budget also proposed to cut in half the amount of money that is made available to dairy farmers from the Community Investment Act which helps with farmland preservation and land protection.

This proposed cut to the Community Investment Act on top of this new tax on veterinary services will be devastating to farmers in Connecticut. I will not support these new taxes. Farmers like Paul Miller and the others have worked too hard for their community and families and we should not be balancing a budget on their backs.

Senator Guglielmo represents the 35th District towns of Ashford, Chaplin, Coventry, Eastford, Ellington, Hampton, Pomfret, Stafford, Tolland, Union, Vernon, Willington and Woodstock.