Breaking down Missouri's 2 ballot issues that would raise cigare - KMOV.com

Breaking down Missouri's 2 ballot issues that would raise cigarette taxes

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Cigarette (Credit: KMOV) Cigarette (Credit: KMOV)

Missouri voters head to the polls in less than three weeks. Obviously, picking a president will be at the top of the list, but they'll also be asked to raise the state's tax on cigarettes twice because there are two separate issues on the ballot to increase the cost of cigarettes.

Right now, Missouri has the lowest tax on cigarettes in the country with 17 cents per pack.

Proposition A would add a 23 cent tax. It would happen in stages, starting next year and be fully implemented by 2021. Proponents estimate that will bring in an addition $100 million to the state. The extra money would go to transportation and fund infrastructure projects. On the other hand, local governments are expected to lose about $3 million because of fewer cigarette sales. The Petroleum Marketers Association is pushing this tax and taking a strong opposition to Amendment 3.

Amendment 3 would raise the state tax of a pack of cigarettes by 15 cents each year, for four years, for a total of 60 cents. By the time it's fully implemented, it is expected to bring in an additional $300 million. That money would go into a new fund for early childhood education.

Proponents of Amendment 3 said its goal is to do more to support early childhood education, rather than taxing smokers out of a habit. A leaders with group behind the issue, Raise Your Hand for Kids, said tobacco is the only untapped resource in our state to address these education needs.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is on board. His office cited "the urgent need for more funding for early childhood programs and education to give our children the best possible foundation to build their future."

However, other politicians are taking a stand against it.

Eric Greitens (R), who is running for governor, said he doesn't want to raise taxes on anyone in Missouri. His opponent, Attorney General Chris Koster (D) also plans to vote no, noting big tobacco's involvement in getting the issue on the ballot, creating a second education bureaucracy, and education and health groups who also oppose it.

 Washington University is one of those organizations. In a statement to News 4, university leaders said:

Washington University opposes Amendment 3, the tobacco tax initiative, because it contains language that conflicts with State constitutional protections for stem cell research.  The Amendment 3 ballot initiative erodes medical research safeguards passed by voters in 2006, thereby adversely affecting the development of new therapies and cures for diseases impacting our citizens.

Proponents of Amendment 3 said they were surprised that health groups and the business community did not join their effort to raise cigarette taxes to fund education and that's why they had to team up with big tobacco to get funding to get the issue on the ballot.

One of the big questions is what happens if voters approve both measures. The attorney who drafted Proposition A tells News 4 the two issues are not in conflict so he believes they both could be implemented if they both pass. However, the Secretary of State's office tells News 4 that will be for the courts to decide. Generally, constitutional amendments supersede statutory changes.

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