Governor Dayton stands up for health, asks lawmakers to undo tobacco tax cuts
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is engaged in a showdown with legislative leaders over breaks for tobacco companies and other provisions included in the tax bill sent to him last month. The cuts repeal an annual increase of state tobacco taxes to adjust for inflation, and reduce the price and weaken the definition of “premium” cigars.
After a special session at the end of May, Gov. Dayton signed the tax bill, but vetoed funding for the Legislature for the next two years. The Governor said the veto should motivate lawmakers to return for another special session and undo the tobacco tax cuts. In a statement, he noted the relationship between high tobacco taxes and low smoking rates, called the tax cuts “egregious” and said he was appalled legislative leaders had made them a priority this year. Lawmakers have sued the Governor in response.
Taken together, the tax cuts partially roll back the strong tobacco tax package passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2013, and on Friday, June 9, Gov. Dayton appeared with dozens of youth from Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation to speak on the importance of keeping our tobacco prices high. Sharing a new report on the 2013 tax’s impacts from the Minnesota Department of Health, the Governor said, “Making cigarettes less easily accessible to children and adults means fewer Minnesotans start smoking, and more are likely to quit.”
He was joined by the state Health Commissioner, Dr. Edward Ehlinger, and by ClearWay Minnesota’s Molly Moilanen, a co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, as well as by youth advocates and a volunteer from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. All of them spoke on the benefits Minnesota has seen from the 2013 tobacco tax, including reductions in smoking by adults and youth and increases in quitting because of high tobacco prices.
We are grateful to Gov. Dayton for making this issue a priority. By doing so, he is helping to create a healthier future for our whole state, and preventing Big Tobacco from hurting the kids of Minnesota. We join the Governor in calling on leaders of both parties to come back and remove the tax breaks, which benefit an industry that creates death and disease, and drives up costs for everyone.