Lawmakers should repeal the sales tax on safety apparel, including critical personal protective equipment, when the General Assembly meets in an expected June special session.
The 6.35% state sales tax was added to safety apparel in the two-year budget the legislature adopted last year—a decision now driving up costs significantly for employers navigating the coronavirus pandemic.
CBIA opposed removing the PPE sales tax exemption last year, calling it short sighted while urging lawmakers not to add to the cost of maintaining safe workplaces and complying with state and federal regulations.
"Employers are already paying premium prices for PPE and Connecticut's sales tax is adding insult to injury," said CBIA's Eric Gjede.
"PPE is now more critical than ever because of the pandemic, yet costs have risen dramatically because of high demand and worldwide shortages."
The state began taxing PPE from Jan. 1 this year.
The state Department of Revenue Services defines safety apparel as "any item of clothing or protective equipment worn by an employee for protection during the course of the employee's employment."
It includes critical items employers are required to provide employees under the state's coronavirus mandates, including face masks, shields, respirators, gloves, protective aprons, filtering face pieces, lab coats, and disposable paper clothing.
Chris DiPentima, president of Leggett & Platt's Pegasus branch in Middletown, says struggling Connecticut employers can "use all the help they can get right now."
"There are many ways that our government can lower costs to offset the revenue generated from taxing PPE," he said.
"However, there aren't many ways that businesses can lower their costs beyond what they have already done to survive this far.
"Many small and medium-sized manufacturers have voiced concerns over paying additional costs associated with the tax when they are just trying to survive financially right now.
"It will also be a big issue for many of the small businesses that are reopening in phase two."
Some state lawmakers are already calling for tax hikes to resolve projected budget deficits in the next budget cycle, a counterproductive move given the widespread economic damage caused by the pandemic.
Gjede said recovering the hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and rebuilding the economy requires a different way of thinking, including greater collaboration between lawmakers and employers.
"Connecticut needs a much different approach if we're going to recover successfully," Gjede said.
"Employers, particularly small businesses, need support from the state as we rebuild Connecticut's economy—not more taxes and higher costs.
"Repealing the state sales tax on PPE is a step in the right direction."