PoliGraph: AFP ad doesn’t tell the whole story

poligraph-misleadingGov. Mark Dayton’s tax policies are the focus of a new radio ad paid for by Americans for Prosperity – Minnesota.

The spot, which will run for three weeks on stations in the Rochester, Mankato and Duluth areas, features a man and woman discussing a recent article in the Star Tribune that quotes Dayton as saying, “I vacillate every day from being a liberal to a libertarian.”

The couple is in disbelief that Dayton, who is a Democrat, says he has libertarian impulses given his record.

Woman: “Didn’t he raise taxes by $2.1 billion for huge new government programs?

Man: “Yes! And even low income families had to pay more.”

The radio ad lacks context.

The Evidence

Americans for Prosperity is a national group that supports free-market and Republican candidates. The group is associated with Charles and David Koch, brother businessmen who have become conservative megadonors to Republican causes and candidates.

The ad is correct that Dayton and the DFL Legislature raised taxes by $2.1 billion in the 2013 session. The new taxes included a higher income tax rate on Minnesota’s top earners, as well as a new tax on cigarettes.

In part, that new revenue helped close the state’s deficit. But it also went for more spending. About $660 million went toward k-12 education, including $134 million for all day kindergarten. About $127 million went to jobs programs. And an additional $440 million went to property tax relief.

What the AFP ad doesn’t mention is that Dayton and the DFL legislature cut taxes by about $543 million in the 2014 session because the state ended up having a surplus of $1.23 billion.

Many of those tax cuts aren’t exactly new; the state simply squared its tax code with the federal code, which it failed to do in 2013 because it would have been too costly. Another big chunk of those cuts came from repealing new sales taxes Dayton and DFLers approved last year.

But overall, that’s a net tax increase of $1.5 billion, not $2.1 billion as the AFP ad states.

The second part of the ad refers to a $1.60 per pack cigarette tax, which even Dayton has said will likely hit lower income earners the hardest. His hope is that the higher prices will compel people to quit.

That said, not all lower income earners smoke – in fact, only 19 percent of Minnesota adults do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – so it’s misleading to say that “even low income families had to pay more.”

Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans points out that some of these lower income smokers are also benefiting from tax cuts passed this year.

“That’s why we focused on the working family credit, property tax refunds and [eliminating] the marriage penalty,” Frans said. “What we did in 2014 was really geared toward lower and middle people.”

 The Verdict

There’s truth to the AFP radio spot.

Dayton raised taxes by $2.1 billion, and some of that money went to government programs.

But not all of it did. Some of it closed the state’s deficit. And the ad leaves out the fact that Dayton and the DFL legislature scaled back taxes in 2014.

It’s also true that the state’s new cigarette tax is likely to hit lower income earners hardest because they are more likely to smoke. But to imply that all low income families have had to pay more in taxes is a stretch.

The AFP ad is misleading.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES

John Cooney, state director, AFP-MN

John Pollard, spokesperson, Minnesota Management and Budget

Matt Swenson, spokesperson, Gov. Mark Dayton

  • Sara Amaden

    You say that some of the $2.1 billion tax increase went to government programs, but not all of it did. You say, “Some of it closed the state’s deficit.” What do you think a deficit is? It is a shortage of money required to pay for programs already in place.

    • theoacme

      But given that the deficit was caused in part by the Republicans spending without taxing during the Pawlenty years, and the years when Republicans in the Legislature was working on Constitutional amendments to legalize the continued rape of homosexuals, and the AFP didn’t mention that, I would say that AFP is guilty of treason.