It’s not a coincidence. Jack Ciattarelli Is Against Higher Taxes on Cigarettes. Because His Top Advisor is Big Tobacco Lobbyist Dale Florio.

Insider deals and favoring the special interests. It’s just more of the same old, failed Trenton politics.

In his annual budget address to the State Legislature, Governor Phil Murphy outlined plans to invest significant new resources in priorities ranging from property tax relief to public school funding to increased support for NJ TRANSIT, and much more. In order to fund these important programs the Governor has called for the restoration of the millionaire’s tax, asking the very wealthy to pay an additional two cents on every dollar they make over $1 million per year, as well as increased taxes on gun purchases, opioide manufactures and large companies that don’t provide health insurance to their employees.

One other proposal from Governor Murphy sparked an immediate rebuke from Trenton insider politician and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli — higher taxes on cigarette purchases. Governor Murphy is calling for the state’s cigarette taxes to be brought in line with those in New York State and other parts of the Northeast, which will raise $218 million in new revenue dedicated to anti-smoking programs, lead remediation and other popular initiatives.

Apparently that didn’t sit well with Ciattarelli, who told the New Jersey Globe: “Sky-rocketing taxes on cigarettes exploits and punishes the most marginalized members of the community, including those on the lowest rungs of our economic ladder.”

While Ciattarelli wants you to think his opposition to higher cigarette taxes has to do with his concern for lower income residents, there is another reason why he might be against the plan: the influence of his longtime supporter and advisor Dale Florio, a top lobbyist for Big Tobacco.

Who is Dale Florio? A longtime Republican operative and confidant to GOP elected officials who founded Princeton Public Affairs, the biggest lobbying firm in the state with over $9 million in billings in 2018. In fact, Florio was the second highest paid lobbyist in New Jersey last year, raking in over $650,000 from his clients.

Florio is well known as one of Ciattarelli’s most ardent supporters. He endorsed Ciattarelli when he unsuccessfully ran for Governor in 2017, and has more recently been described by InsiderNJ columnist Alan Steinberg as one of the candidate’s top advisors.

But before founding his lobbying firm, Florio had a different career — he worked directly for Big Tobacco giant Philip Morris, helping the cigarette company fight against efforts to protect people from the dangerous effects of smoking. According to his bio: “Prior to founding Princeton Public Affairs Group in 1987, Mr. Florio managed the nationwide Philip Morris state and local government affairs program. He developed and implemented the company’s public affairs strategy, grassroots effort, and political contributions program.”

Florio has continued to represent the interests of cigarette companies against public health, working with Chris Christie to defeat a plan to increase the age limit to buy tobacco to 21 in 2016 and showering Republican lawmakers and committees with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Big Tobacco. According to annual lobbying disclosures, Philip Morris parent company Altria paid Florio’s firm $130,000 in 2018, the most recent year that disclosures are currently available.

When you hear Jack Ciattarelli attack Governor Murphy’s plans to fight back against smoking, remember who is advising him — Big Tobacco’s lobbyist in Trenton. It’s just another example of Ciattarelli putting big corporations and the special interests ahead of middle class New Jersey families.