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Proposed cigarette tax ignites debate

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nevada Daily Mail

Missourians have historically declined to raise cigarette taxes and if they still think like State Rep. Barney Fisher, Sen. David Pearce and Rep.-elect Randy Pike, Proposition B, a statewide ballot initiative to bump that levy by a gargantuan 73 cents a pack, will fare no better Nov. 6 than similar plans did in 2002 and 2006.

At 17 cents a pack, the state's current cigarette tax is the nation's lowest. "The problem with sin taxes is a built-in conflict between the goal and revenue," Fisher said Thursday in Nevada.

"If the goal to make people healthier succeeds, revenue declines. My fear is Jefferson City will have a problem if it gets used to the revenue and then people stop buying cigarettes and smoking.

"Other things like gambling and horse track betting might look good, but they'd better be self-sustaining because government might have to wean itself and that will be painful," Fisher said.

None of the three Republican officials took a formal position, but they all expressed doubts about the measure, which would increase the total per-pack levy to 90 cents and set taxes at 25 percent on roll-your-own tobacco and 15 percent for other forms.

A Nevada Daily Mail online poll on Thursday showed 183 people, or 74 percent of the 247 participating, disliking Prop B, 58 participants backing it and 6 indifferent to the election's outcome.

Spokesmen for the Missouri National Education Association say they support it because the $283 million to $423 million it would produce annually would go to K-12 education, higher education and tobacco use prevention.

It is strenuously opposed by the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, whose executive director, Ron Leone, said Thursday that there "are a dozen good reasons, any one of which should make common sense conservative Missourians vote 'no' on Prop B.

"This outrageous 760-percent increase would be the largest in state history," Leone said from Jefferson City. "We'd go from having the lowest cigarette tax in the country to being at a competitive disadvantage with four of our eight border states.

"It would hurt consumers, put small businesses out of business, cause people to lose their jobs and generate less revenue for state and local coffers already stretched thin by the Great Recession. Going by the proponents' numbers, we would lose sales tax revenue by selling 157 million fewer packs per year."

Pearce isn't well-disposed toward Prop B "because a disproportionate number of the people who smoke are on the lower socio-economic level, so it would hurt poor people more than the non-poor," he said.

"This came through the initiative petition process, so I have no more say-so than any other registered voter," Pearce said from Warrensburg. "I think it would have been better if it had been a graduated increase instead of one over 700 percent.

"The negative side is that it would be taking money out of somebody's pocket," the 31st District senator said.

Pike had been researching the matter and said he did "not see a positive right now.

"I don't think it's a good time with the economy the way it is," said Pike, the Bates County commissioner from Adrian set to follow Fisher into the Missouri House of Representatives in January as the 126th District representative.

"It's two-fold. Smoking is not healthy and hopefully if we raised taxes, it would cut down on people's smoking. But I don't believe that to be a fact and I am against raising taxes on any aspect."

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Why not put the tax money toward the millions that smokers cost Medicaid every year?

-- Posted by sam floor on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 7:17 AM

Why not increase the tax on alcohol instead. I'll bet it causes more deaths? Oh, I forgot, more people drink alcohol so the smokers lose.

-- Posted by undeded on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 12:31 PM

Raise it a little but not so much that it will hurt the border businesses.

-- Posted by IcedGreenTea on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 1:32 PM

I don't smoke and I don't drink but I think they are robbing the people who do and it makes me sick. Why don't we legalize, and tax, drugs, gambling, and prostitution and we could eliminate all other taxes?

-- Posted by resident65 on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 2:35 PM

"We the people" have become host to a gargantuan leech that is our own city, state and federal governments. Anyone who votes "yes" on ANY tax increase needs their head examined. They take too much already, always in the name of "good" and the money never seems to go where they say it will.

An increase such as this one is in the realm of absurd. NO on "B"!

-- Posted by Mr. Chibbers on Sat, Oct 13, 2012, at 3:40 PM

Folks, of course you should vote YES on Prop B, because the legislators didn't have the backbone to do their jobs and pass a comprehensive tobacco control program that included a higher state cigarette tax. We should be thankful that our government is structured to allow a citizen initiative when their elected officials fail to do so.

As for the doomsday loss of revenue woes, if the cigarette taxes are raised (what an embarrassment it is to have the lowest state cigarette tax in the country and have one of the highest smoking rates in the US as well) people will either quit or not initiate smoking (which is the primary intent of the tax increase) and they will have more disposable income to spend elsewhere. C'mon folks, what do you think they will do with the money that they don't spend on smokes? Put it under the mattress? No, of course not, they will spend it elsewhere, perhaps in the same location where they used to buy their tobacco products and they will still pay taxes on these other purchases.

-- Posted by smokefree on Sun, Oct 14, 2012, at 2:36 AM


-- Posted by BORN&RAISEDNEVADAMO on Mon, Oct 15, 2012, at 10:17 AM

What happened to the Lottery money saving education?

NO on any tax increase!

If you want to pay higher taxes move to Kansas or Illinois.

-- Posted by Bodybag on Mon, Oct 15, 2012, at 10:31 PM

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