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."