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Grover Norquist Wants To Kill Chris Christie's E-Cigarette Tax

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"Small businesses like convenience stores and especially brick and mortar vape shops will be hardest hit by this $35 million tax increase," Norquist wrote, referring to the state Treasury's estimate of the revenues. "By making New Jersey uncompetitive in e-cigarette pricing, the state would encourage smuggling, which will cost New Jersey small businesses tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue."

There are deeper undertones to Norquist's salvo. Christie -- despite his woes over a politically-charged traffic scandal -- is weighing a run for president in 2016. Norquist, the president of Americans For Tax Reform, has led the lobbying effort to punish Republican lawmakers who vote for any tax increases.

A Christie spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The e-cigarette tax is one of several relatively modest taxes and fees in Christie's new budget, seemingly proposed in an effort to appease the Democratic legislature and maintain some of the cross-partisan appeal that helped him win reelection with a whopping 60 percent of the vote last fall. Norquist's letter took aim at other revenue-raisers in the governor's budget, too.

He said the proposals weren't "about tax law fairness; they are clearly cash grabs aimed at raising tens of millions of dollars." The bottom of the letter, putatively addressed to the legislature, read: "Cc: Governor Chris Christie."

The e-cigarette tax hike has the support of some Democrats, who call it fiscally responsible, and opposition from some, who say it punishes people who are trying to quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine to the user through vapor rather than smoke, and have far fewer toxins than traditional cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The legislature discussed the proposal at a hearing last week.

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.