I just listened to today’s St. Louis on the Air, devoted to discussing the two tobacco tax increase proposals on the November 8th ballot. I thought that Stacy Reliford of the American Cancer Society gave a fine performance against smooth-tongued Ron Leone, Executive Director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, despite his being well armed with facts.
But he did better in the second half of the broadcast when debating Jane Dueker, an attorney representing Constitutional Amendment 3 (sponsored by Raise Your Hands For Kids, or RYH4K), a group advocating for early childhood education.
So far, I can only find a link to the first half of the broadcast at tinyurl.com/zcz7n49 and I’ve reproduced that below. You can listen to the full broadcast by going to the above link and scrolling down.
Note: Ron Leone has changed quite a bit since the black and white photo I have of him on file (at left), which I used in my blog of November 1st. But he still has considerably more hair than me, and he doesn’t look so evil now!)
“On Tuesday, Nov. 1, St. Louis on the Air hosted a moderated conversation in the Community Room at St. Louis Public Radio about Amendments 3, 4 and 6 as well as Proposition A. This was an effort to inform voters on statewide ballot issues they would see on Nov. 8.
The third part of the conversation centered on Proposition A, which would increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products a total of 23 cents per pack by 2021. The proceeds of the tax would go to fund transportation infrastructure.
This measure is one of two tobacco tax-related measures on Missouri’s ballot. The other is Constitutional Amendment 3.
During this part of the conversation, we heard from one proponent and one opponent of Proposition A. Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, represented the “pro” side of the argument. Stacy Reliford, the Missouri Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, represented the “con” side of the argument.
Want an in-depth, objective analysis of what the amendment would do? Read this story from St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies: “Rival tobacco tax proposals focus all their energies on Missouri’s Amendment 3.”
Below, please find major “pro” and “con” arguments summarized.
PRO: Ron Leone wants people to vote “Yes” on Proposition A. Here are his main points:
The Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association was tired of having to fight “outrageous and unfair” tobacco taxes every 2-4 years and hopes this incrementally increasing tax will reduce the need to fight such measures and protect the MPCA.
- By 2021, the tax will have increased 135%, which is considered “fair and reasonable” because it will keep Missouri at a competitive tax advantage over our eight border states.
- The tax will generate $100 million, which will go toward fixing Missouri’s roads and bridges. It does not solve lack of funding for MODOT, but would help.
- There appears to be no other transportation funding fix coming down the pike.
- People come to Missouri to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products, which generates sales tax, tobacco tax and motor fuels tax. This tax will ensure the state’s prices stay competitive so that people from other border states will still come here and spend money.
- The proposition has a “rollback” clause that if anyone tries to pass another tobacco tax by initiative petition, this tax will revert to zero. The MPCA did not want to pass this proposition to protect itself one year and have it undone the next.
- If both Proposition A and Amendment 3 pass, it is unclear what will happen: either the higher tax cancels the other tax out or the taxes will be cumulative. The courts will decide.
Essentially, Ron Leone wants people to vote “Yes” on Proposition A because he thinks smaller, incremental tax increases on tobacco will keep Missouri competitive and bring spenders here from other states while also garnering money to invest in transportation infrastructure.
CON: Stacy Reliford urges a “No” vote on Proposition A. Here are her main points:
- The amount of the proposed tax increase is not designed to reduce smoking. Only bigger, more substantial tax increases of $1 or more impact consumer behavior.
- The proposition was written by those in the tobacco industry, and those who profit from selling cigarettes and consumers’ health was not in mind.
- This will only move Missouri to being 49th instead of 51st in cheapest cigarettes in the country and that is holding all other tobacco prices constant.
- It does not make sense to sell cigarettes to boost the state’s economy, when cigarette use in our state costs $644 million in Medicaid alone.
- Per the proposition’s “rollback clause,” any other tobacco tax only has to make it on the ballot to be repealed — it doesn’t even have to pass. That could cut the transportation funding right away.
- Not knowing the complete and total outcome of what this vote means — if the tax would or would not be compounded with Amendment 3 should they both pass — is dangerous for voters to approve.
- This proposition is really about discouraging the state from ever raising taxes on tobacco enough to dissuade consumers from buying and using them.
Essentially, Stacy Reliford wants people to vote “no” on Proposition A because the tax will not effectively dissuade consumers from purchasing and using tobacco, which has proven harmful for people’s health and costly for the state.