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Reality Check: Paulsen Ad Paints Bonoff As Serial Tax Raiser

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen is going negative in his 3rd District Congressional race.

Paulsen's new TV ad accuses Terri Bonoff of being a serial tax raiser, using her own words to suggest she is willing and eager to do it.

Here is the full text of the ad:

PAULSEN: I'm Erik Paulsen, and I approve this message.
ANNOUNCER: Who is Terri Bonoff? She's a 10-year State Senator who voted to turn a $2 billion surplus into a $6 billion deficit. Bonoff voted for a billion-dollar tax increase, higher sales and income taxes, even a tax on nursing homes.
BONOFF: I have repeatedly been willing to vote for unpopular taxes.
ANNOUNCER: Who is Terri Bonoff?
BONOFF: I have repeatedly been willing to vote for unpopular taxes.
ANNOUNCER: That's Terri Bonoff.

But the Paulsen ad takes Bonoff's remarks out of context. She made the comments at an August debate, responding to a question about how the federal government could provide funding for roads and bridges.

Here is the full question posed by the debate's moderator:

"What role does the federal government need to play in maintaining and expanding infrastructure in the United States, and how should they provide funding assistance to states and local entities for roads, bridges and public transportation? And please address specific funding proposals you might have," said the moderator.

Citing the 35W Bridge collapse in 2007, Bonoff said she voted to raise the gas tax 5-cents a gallon to ramp up Minnesota's bridge inspections and repairs.

That bill also raised car registration fees and gave counties the power to raise local sales taxes for transportation.

Here is the rest of what Bonoff said:

"I have repeatedly been willing to vote for unpopular taxes. This is the one area where I vote for tax increases, and that is taxes that fund our infrastructure and our transportation system," Bonoff said.

Terri Bonoff And Erik Paulsen
Terri Bonoff And Erik Paulsen (credit: Minnesota Senate/CBS)

The Paulsen ad cites two other votes it says that Bonoff took on non-transportation related bills that raised taxes, including an income tax hike on high earners in 2009.

But it distorts Bonoff's words on transportation to suggest she will vote for any tax hike, no matter how unpopular.

The Paulsen campaign disagrees that it is distorting what Bonoff said, and Paulsen spokesman John-Paul Yates says Bonoff "lies" about supporting tax hikes.

"As her voting record shows, she's willing to vote for all kinds of taxes," Yates said.

As examples, Yates cites what he says are two specific Bonoff votes:

  • A budget-balancing bill in 2009 that included an income tax hike subsequently vetoed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
  • A 2010 Bonoff vote for a bill that included what he says an increase in a nursing home surcharge "from $2,815 to $3,400."


That bill adjusted reimbursement rate formulas downward to give nursing homes access to increased federal operating funds.

The Bonoff campaign issued this written statement about the ad:

"Erik Paulsen's misleading and negative ad not only does a disservice to voters, but is also clear evidence that he's worried about keeping his seat. Sen. Bonoff has a strong record of being an independent, fiscally-conservative Democrat who stands up to her party on behalf of her constituents, including voting against the most recent $1 billion tax increase in 2013."

Here Are Some Of The Sources That We Used For This Reality Check:

'Who Is Terri Bonoff?' TV Ad

2008 Transportation Funding Bill

2009 Omnibus Tax Bill

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