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Gov. Mark Dayton, bipartisan legislators propose new tax on prescription opioids to address problem

Star Tribune - 2/14/2018

Feb. 14--Gov. Mark Dayton and a bipartisan group of lawmakers rolled out a plan to tax prescription opioids and use the money to alleviate the epidemic that claimed the lives of nearly 400 Minnesotans in 2016.

Dayton was joined by Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, and Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, who have both lost children to opioid addiction.

"I don't want to see other families go through what my family went through when we lost our son," Baker said.

The plan would tax prescription opioids a penny on each milligram of active ingredient in a prescription pain pill. The money, about $20 million per year, would go toward prevention; emergency response; treatment and recovery; and, law enforcement.

The rapid rise in Minnesota opioid fatalities -- a 66 percent increase between 2010 and 2016 -- is part of a trend that has pushed the number of opioid deaths above 42,000 nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dayton and the lawmakers used tough language to describe the drug companies, whose resistance to the new tax they will likely have to overcome during the legislative session that begins Feb. 20.

"I know the pharmaceutical companies had the data, they had the studies that showed them these drugs were dangerously addictive," Eaton said. "And they tried to get doctors to prescribe them more to make money."

"I don't see any reason why the taxpayers should have to pay to fix this. I believe (pharmaceutical companies) owe reparations," she said.

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(c)2018 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

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