There’s a heated debate going on regarding two dueling proposals on the November 8th ballot, Constitutional Amendment 3 and Proposition A, both aimed at raising Missouri’s present lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax. I’m personally voting “NO” on both, as explained below, but I also list pro and con reasons provided by others.
First, it’s worth comparing our state’s tax with that of surrounding states and also provide some historical perspective:
The current Missouri state tax is 17 cents a pack, agreed to in a deal in 1993 between former House Speaker, Bob Griffin (who was later indicted and jailed on bribery and other charges), and the late John Britton, the formidable lobbyist for the now-defunct Tobacco Institute. The agreement was to raise the tobacco tax by 4 cents for school nurses in exchange for not raising it further. (ref: 2010/11/24 P-D OpEd:”Cigarette Taxes – Missouri can’t afford to be last” .)
Several attempts to raise it significantly, in part as a way to deter smoking and cut smoking rates in Missouri, have met resolute and successful opposition. A leading opponent is Ron Leone, Executive Director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) (www.mpca.org/) since tobacco sales are important to his members. (See, for example, this 2012 blog “Missouri keeps tobacco tax as the lowest in the nation.”)
Below are detailed descriptions of the two tobacco-related measures with commentary added:
Section 54(b). 2. …. None of the funds collected, distributed, or allocated from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be expended, paid or granted to or on behalf of existing or proposed activities, programs, or initiatives that involve abortion services including performing, inducing, or assisting with abortions, as defined in law, or encouraging patients to have abortions, referring patients for abortions not necessary to save the life of the mother, or development of drugs, chemicals, or devices intended to be used to induce an abortion. None of the funds collected … shall be expended, paid or granted to or on behalf of any abortion clinic, abortion clinic operator, or outpatient healthcare facility that provides abortion services, unless such services are limited to medical emergencies. No funds …. shall be used for human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem cells, as defined in Article III, section 38(d). No funds … shall be used for tobacco related research of any kind.
Many groups oppose the Raise Your Hand for Kids amendment, including Tobacco Free Missouri. Dena Ladd, Executive Director of Missouri Cures, listed them in an October 23rd, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch OpEd: Why medical research advocates are so concerned about Amendment 3.
“Members who have fought year after year for investment in early childhood education are supporting it – they are tired of waiting for our General Assembly to address our outdated, unfair, and inadequate revenue system. While the General Assembly continues to tax cut year after year – a billion dollars in cuts over the past 15 years approximately – essential programs languish, and only three percent of our children are in high quality early childhood education. We are structuring ourselves to fail in so many ways!
Members who oppose Amendment 3 generally think it’s a ploy by Big Tobacco to make more money and that the early childhood advocates are being played. Several have a hotbutton issue that turns them against 3 – the definition of abortion in the ballot measure language, fears of some slippery slope on stem cell research (an argument that I do not find persuasive), wishes for a larger tobacco tax from a “what works in comprehensive tobacco control” perspective, etc.).”
The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA), a trade group representing many independent gas stations and convenience stores, is leading the opposition to Amendment 3 and is backing a competing – and substantially smaller – cigarette tax, phased in over four years, that will appear on the November ballot as Proposition A. Not surprisingly, it leaves in place the current exemption for any “Non-participating manufacturer” in the Master Settlement Agreement which are specifically targeted in the competing RYH4K ballot initiative.
The two major financial supporters of this proposal are reportedly North Carolina-based Cheyenne International and XCaliber International of Oklahoma. Cheyenne (Brands: Aura, Cheyenne, Decade) has sent $2.8 million to the fight, while XCaliber (Brands: Echo, Exeter, Edgefield) has contributed $2.9 million.
Under Proposition A, the additional tax on a 20 pack of cigarettes will increase over a period of four years as follows:
13-cents-per-pack on January 1st, 2017, i.e. 30 cents total state tax
An additional 5-cents-per-pack on January 1st, 2019, to 18-cents-per-pack for 35 cents total
An additional 5-cents-per-pack on January 1st, 2021, to 23-cents-per-pack for 40 cents total
These increases will not apply to inventory as of December 30th in any previous year.