MINNEAPOLIS -- Two Minnesota legislators have introduced a proposal to double Minnesota's cigarette tax to repay money borrowed from public schools and to beat down business property taxes. The proposed legislation would tack on $1.29 per pack of cigarettes, reported the Star Tribune, bringing state's $1.23 tax to $2.52, in line with Wisconsin and other states.
The legislation would also increase the tax on noncigarette tobacco products to 95% of their wholesale price, said Raise it for Health, an anti-tobacco coalition, in a separate statement supporting the increases.
"It's good health policy, it deters youth smokers and it helps adults to quit," said State Senator Carla Nelson (R). "It's also good for kids' education and it makes us a more jobs-friendly state."
State Representative Mike Benson (R) is the sponsor in the House.
Nelson does not have other Republican sponsors in the Senate, but the bill's introduction is a noteworthy departure from the GOP's refusal to consider tax hikes in the past year, said the report, even to end the statewide government shutdown last summer.
The proposal would raise $320 million over two years, which would allow the state to begin repaying more than $2 billion it borrowed from public schools to patch back-to-back budget deficits. Once the school shift is repaid, Nelson proposed using the money to lower business property taxes.
"We have very high business property taxes, we have very moderate tobacco taxes, and in reality I'd like to see that reversed," Nelson said. "It's getting rid of a bad tax for a good tax."
Nelson said it is hard to measure support among Republicans, but she believes Democrats will sign on and help build momentum.
"Just the three letter word, t-a-x, is probably the biggest problem," Nelson said. "But I trust Minnesotans to see beyond a three-letter word."