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Connecticut Legislature Rejects Proposal to Tax Health/Wellness

BOSTON — Connecticut residents won't have to pay a tax on wellness, at least for now. The legislature's Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding has voted down a measure that would have taxed health club memberships.

Members of IHRSA reportedly responded quickly to the threat of a sales tax on fitness services. IHRSA's Government Relations Manager, Kevin Buckley, launched a comprehensive advocacy campaign with Connecticut area club operators. Campaign supporters from health clubs included Bob Stauble of Healthtrax in Glastonbury, Vincent Sansone of The Fitness Edge in Fairfield, Frank Napolitano of TSl and Lisa Stricker of Bally Total Fitness.

“The campaign involved alerting clubs to the threat and encouraging them to do everything from letters and e-mails, to phone calls to meetings with legislators,” Buckley told Club Industry. “IHRSA coordinated the advocacy campaign in order to ensure that elected officials were aware that Connecticut club operators were adamantly opposed to this measure. IHRSA also had extensive contact with the Finance Committee — that is the Committee that the sales tax proposal was in front of — during that time”

“Public health experts are unanimous that active and fit lifestyles result in decreased health care costs, reduced governmental spending, fewer illnesses, and improved worker productivity,” said John McCarthy, executive director of IHRSA. “That being said, it doesn't make sense to raise the cost of physical fitness by levying a tax.”

As many states seek additional sources of revenue in these tight economic times, it is likely that proposals to tax health club memberships, along with other goods and services, will emerge across the country. IHRSA said it and its members would continue to monitor Connecticut's legislature, as well as those in other states, to ensure that state governments encourage, rather than discourage, healthy activities. Alaska is high on the list as IHRSA works to defeat a similar proposal there.

“All across our country, efforts are underway to lower the barriers that prevent people from becoming physically active. Obesity rates are at epidemic proportions. Almost two-thirds of all adults are seriously overweight or obese. We plan on educating elected officials to these [and other] facts as well as the benefits of encouraging, rather then discouraging, exercise,” said Buckley. “We are also very concerned about AED requirement legislation that has emerged in four different states — New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Jersey. IHRSA will be opposing these measures.”

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