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Yes on Raising Tobacco Taxes, as Prop B Asks?

Missouri voters will be asked on Nov. 6 to consider a ballot question raising tobacco taxes from 17 to 90 cents on name-brand cigarettes; off brands, the hike is larger.

It's one of those hyper-divisive issues, and it's on the ballot on Nov. 6. Why is Proposition B so divisive?

Well, for starters, it involves two relatively unpopular practices: raising taxes and smoking. But here's the thing: If you don't smoke, do you really care about raising taxes on smokers? And if you smoke, are you ever going to vote for a hike in tobacco taxes?

That's what Prop B is about. In basic English, the measure would boost state taxes from 17 to 90 cents on name-brand cigarettes. For off-brands, the state tax would rise to $1.47 a pack. 

In the less-plain language of the actual ballot question, Prop B would:

  • create the Health and Education Trust Fund with proceeds of a tax of 3.65 cents per cigarette and 25 percent of the manufacturer's invoice price for roll-your-own tobacco and 15 percent for other tobacco products;
  • use Fund proceeds to reduce and prevent tobacco use and for elementary, secondary, college, and university public school funding; and
  • increase the amount that certain tobacco product manufacturers must maintain in their escrow accounts, to pay judgments or settlements, before any funds in escrow can be refunded to the tobacco product manufacturer and create bonding requirements for these manufacturers?

In the shorthand of the opponents, the measure amounts to a 760 percent tax increase, and they say that's just not acceptable. In fact, they argue that the increase would actually lower proceeds, by reducing sales.

Is that such a bad thing? Proponents such as the Rockwood Drug-Free Coalition said in a letter to the editor on Patch that the tax would "reduce tobacco use rates, and will generate approximately $283 million in annual revenue at a time when our state desperately needs these funds." The coalition argues the state's lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax supports addictive behavior and harms the health of its residents.

In an editorial, the Suburban Journals support Proposition B for a number of reasons, including the potential reduction in the number of smokers, the increase in revenue, which can be used for anti-smoking educational programs, and the "level playing field" in which Missouri smokers pay comparable taxes to neighboring states.

That's the set-up for this week's conversation starter. Do you support an increase in tobacco taxes? Why or why not? Are you a smoker? Does that make a difference in your opinion?

Cynthia C. November 07, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Or, maybe you're suggesting we should make cigarettes and heroin more affordable for everyone so we can all die of emphysema, lung cancer, overdose, and HIV! Yay! What a great way to solve the world's problems of hunger and overpopulation!!
Reverend Scott E. Lee November 09, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Ms. C.: http://ofallon.patch.com/articles/yes-on-raising-tobacco-taxes-as-prop-b-asks#comment_5391950 I was being facetious and hyperbolic. I enjoy the occasional cheeseburger. I had one this afternoon, actually. Just like the one you described. A Jack in the Box Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger. It was blissful. Don't tell my doctor. My point was simple: If "they" want to tax things, don't tax one thing a lot, tax a lot of things a little bit. "They" would if it really was "for the children©". It's not about that. It's that "they" don't like tobacco products and "they" want to make smoking impossible without trying Prohibition II. "We're not going to stop everyone, but most Missourians do want to quit," said Misty Snodgrass, government relations director for the American Cancer Society. "This is truly about saving lives and keeping kids from ever starting to smoke." It had nothing to do with education. That was just a hook. The tax money had to go SOMEWHERE, so why not link it to children? It wouldn't have mattered; the money would have ended up in the general coffers after balancing cuts were made to education, just like the casino and lottery money. MO Legislature: "The Dept. of Education gets $200 million* from the boats and the lotto? Okay, we'll lower their general revenue funding by $200 million* and we get more money! Let's buy a puppy mill!" * $200 million is not an actual budgetary amount. It is used as a random amount for this example.
Cynthia C. November 09, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Safeguards were to have been put in place to prevent the money from ending up in the general coffers (like the lottery money). In the actual "language of the actual ballot question" (as Kurt Greenbaum says in the article above): "All of the moneys from the taxes imposed by this section shall be kept separate from the general revenue fund as well as any other funds or accounts in the state treasury and shall be credited to and placed only in the Health and Education Trust Fund and the accounts created within the Health and Education Trust Fund. Any moneys credited to and placed in the Health and Education Trust Fund and any account created by this section shall be appropriated and used only for purposes which are authorized by this section and shall not be subject to the provisions of section 33.080, RSMo. The unexpended balances of such moneys shall remain in the Health and Education Trust Fund and in the particular account in which the moneys are placed, and such balances shall not revert to the general revenue fund. All interest which accrues upon the moneys in any account within the Health and Education Trust Fund shall be added to such account and shall not be credited to the general revenue fund." http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012ballot/PropB.asp As I said before, if people would actually learn about what they are voting for/against and vote with their heads more and their hearts less.... It really would have been "about the children".
Reverend Scott E. Lee November 09, 2012 at 10:24 PM
And, as I said, it has nothing to do with education. The monies would have been set in a "lock box"? Great. Say the tax generated 400 bajillion dollars. The legislature would DECREASE general revenue funding to schools by ... wait for it ... 400 bajillion dollars! That would be an increase in general revenue by (again) 400 bajillion dollars. They did the same thing to get the casinos. They do the same thing with lottery funds. Schools get the same money they would have always received. It's the state that gets the revenue increase. Until you can close both ends of the budgetary loophole, all targeted revenue will -- eventually -- end up in the general revenue fund. Target a tax for schools, increase their funding. Great! Then the state can say, "Why, you don't NEED all of this other tax money because you just GOT 400 bajillion dollars from this new tax that was made just for you! So we shall now decrease OUR contribution to your budget. YAY! More money for us!" It's a scam. It was ALWAYS a scam. The proponents didn't care where the money went as long as the tax was imposed. They tied it to education and children because those are soft targets, politically. You can't come out against children; you can't come out against increased education funding (even though it ISN'T an increase); without looking like a monster. Even the press releases don't say it's for the children. It was ALWAYS about forcing people to quit smoking. PERIOD.
Philip November 10, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Cindy C., The tax was just that a tax on a specific item. If the state taxed Sugar for education would you vote for it? If the state taxed doctors for education would you vote for it? I grant you that the law stated "Monies collected from this tax would go towards education." What they did not state was that there would be a separate education fund to contain these monies. Nor did the law state what would happen if there was no payment of the tax by people leaving the state to buy their tobacco products. All the money collected would end in a general revenue fund which is the only fund for the collection of taxes. Jefferson City did not and will not create a separate fund just for education. That would be the only way anyone would vote a tax increase for education. However even if you have a separate fund for education you still have the problem of our Legislators and their sticky hands. Yes the money would go to education. Yours!! Our Legislators would educate the public on how to steal funds that they should have no access to. The money would never end up supporting the schools due to Jefferson City using it for all kinds of educational projects that only line their pockets. The whole thing was never "about the children" it was and will always be "a tax grab"

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