Americans for Prosperity sent out a direct mail piece this week the states "Carla Nelson wants to raise our taxes... even more than Mark Dayton!" It goes on to state that "Not even Mark Dayton supports such a massive tax hike" and urges people to call her to tell her to "stop raising sales taxes on Minnesotans." Nowhere on the mailer does it use the term "cigarette taxes." A footnote in small print cites a bill she introduced that would increase taxes on cigarettes by $1.29 a pack to the same tax level in Wisconsin and use that money to help reduce the statewide business property tax.
Nelson said the ad is totally unfair and fails to recognize that her bill is revenue neutral raising the cigarette tax in order to lower business taxes.
"I don't believe they have gained any traction," she said. "But it is rather mind boggling, quite frankly, that they would take on someone who has a record of being pro-business, pro-jobs."
Nelson is one of three state lawmakers who support various tax increases being targeted by the group, which was founded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. The others are both Democrats from Edina — Rep. Ron Erhardt and Sen. Paul Rosenthal. The group's Communications Director Chris Van Guilder stood by the mailer. He said that Nelson's proposed cigarette tax is more than the 94-cent-a-pack tax increase proposed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Even though Nelson's bill would cut business taxes, he said it would end up hurting middle-class consumers and businesses in border communities.
"We want lower taxes for businesses, consumers, middle class families and what her bill does is it raises those taxes and we oppose it," he said.
Van Guilder declined to say how much is being spent on the mailers but said it is "significant." He said the group is also planning to use social media to urge their supporters to speak out against these tax proposals.
As for Nelson, she said she has already sent out an email to those asking about mailer and supporters who likely received it.In it, she calls the piece "absurd" and said she backs raising the cigarette tax to help reduce smoking — especially among children.
She wrote, "You know me — I am a strong proponent of lower taxes and less spending. I strongly oppose the multitude of anti-growth and anti-jobs tax hikes proposed in the Governor's budget. My bill would actually lower job-killing taxes in Minnesota and help keep teens from picking up a deadly addiction."