Huebsch Urged to Reject Special Interest Call to Protect Big Tobacco

Budget Priorities Must Be the 500,000 Uninsured, Saving Schools

Milwaukee – Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch should resist calls from the tobacco-financed, right-wing group Americans for Tax Reform to renege on plans in the state budget to ensure big tobacco pays its fair share, said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.

“The Speaker has a simple choice to make – stand up for big tobacco, or stand up for the people of Wisconsin,” said Ross. “Wisconsin will have to wait and see if the Speaker and his caucus give in to threats and intimidation by ideological mercenaries like Grover Norquist.”

Days after the media reported Huebsch would agree to an increase in the state’s cigarette tax, Grover Norquist, head of the Washington, DC-based, Americans for Tax Reform, fired off a letter to the Speaker and later threatened legislators with retaliation.

“I am writing to urge you to reconsider your offer to accept a budget with a $1.25 per pack cigarette tax increase,” wrote Norquist. He added in a separate interview his tobacco-funded group would help recall state lawmakers who back down on any pledges they made to vote against proposed tax increases against big tobacco and big oil.

Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, has received enormous funding from big tobacco. In just one year alone, the group received just under $700,000 from tobacco interests. In addition to his dealings with big tobacco, Norquist was a central player in the scandal of convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff due to the pair’s close financial relationship.

“Hopefully, the Speaker will do the right thing and reject the wealthy pleas of big tobacco,” said Ross. “Speaker Huebsch and his caucus need to do their jobs and pass a budget that provides health care for those in need and protects our schools.”

One Wisconsin Now is a Milwaukee-based non-partisan research and communications hub, advancing progressive ideas, values and policies.