Two groups want to put a cigarette tax increase on the November 2016 ballot. The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) has filed two initiative petitions to raise the tax by 23 cents per pack to support the state’s general revenue fund and to help finance Missouri’s roads and bridges. “Raise Your Hands For Kids” has filed an initiative petition to increase the tax by 50 cents per pack to help fund early childhood education and health screenings for infants and young children.
MPCA Executive Director Ron Leone said the Association, which opposed a cigarette tax hike proposal in 2013, is trying to be one step ahead of any other campaigns targeting a cigarette tax increase.
“We’re pretty sick and tired of always being on defense and always trying to oppose initiative petitions. So we wanted to, for a change, take control of our fate and go on offense,” said Leone.
“We obviously firmly believe that the people would in fact support a reasonable tax increase that doesn’t hurt consumers too bad, maintains the competitive advantage we have over our higher-tax border states and uses the money to help fund a state priority, which in this case would be transportation.”
Leone said the increase would generate about $80-$100 million annually. He said the money isn’t going to solve Missouri’s transportation issues, but it will help.
“Raise Your Hands For Kids” Board Chairperson Erin Brower said Missouri needs to do more for early childhood development.
“Right now, Missouri is ranked 49th for childcare subsidies. Out of 40 states with state-funded preschool, Missouri is 38th,” said Brower. “Really, we just don’t treat early childhood development as a priority in our state. So that’s why we look at the tobacco tax as a dedicated funding stream for something we know is the best economic development choice our state could make.”
Brower says the increase would generate about $225 million annually. She also said the additional revenue wouldn’t fix the state’s early childhood development problems, but she said the money would make an impact and leverage other public and private funding opportunities.
Missouri’s cigarette tax is the lowest in the nation, at 17 cents per pack.