Thursday, May 24, 2012

Missouri's cigarette tax may not be the lowest in the nation for long; judge upholds cigarette tax hike ballot language

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2012 at 9:49 AM

The tobacco tax initiative is heating up.
  • Chris Dellavedova
  • The tobacco tax initiative is heating up.
Missouri may not keep its nicotine-stained grip on the nation's lowest cigarette tax for much longer.

A Cole County judge ruled that the ballot language on a tobacco tax petition submitted to the secretary of state's office is fair, as is the cost estimate given in the summary. The petition is seeking to raise the cigarette tax from 17 cents to 90 cents. The national average for cigarette taxes per pack is $1.46, and Virginia has the second lowest tax rate at 30 cents.

The petition earmarks the revenue collected for education and smoking prevention and cessation. It also would raise taxes on other tobacco products (25 percent of the manufacturer's invoice price on roll-your-own tobacco and 15 percent on all other tobacco products). It was submitted to the secretary of state's office earlier this month with what the American Cancer Society estimated was close to 220,000 signatures. The proposal must have more than 91,818 verified signatures from registered voters to be placed on the November ballot. The secretary of state's office is reviewing three additional ballot petitions: a proposal to restore local control to the St. Louis Police Department, raising the minimum wage from $6.50 to $8.50 in 2013, and a cap on the interest rate for short-term (payday) loans at 36 percent.

The Missouri Legislature considered several bills to raise the cigarette tax, but none made it to the floor of the House or Senate. If the petition has enough signatures, this will mark the third time in the last 10 years that voters have been given the chance to raise the cigarette tax. A 55-cent increase per pack was narrowly defeated in 2002, and an 80-cent increase failed to pass in 2006.
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