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Lobbyist Money Help  

Tobacco tax research money would go to UM, big cities

November 01, 2002
By: Jason McLure
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Several of the organizations sponsoring the proposed $343 million tobacco tax increase stand to reap sizable financial benefits by its passage.

The component groups of Citizens for a Healthy Missouri -- an alliance of St. Louis and Kansas City business groups and the Missouri Hospital Association all stand to gain financially at the expense of the state's smokers.

Missouri hospitals will reap an estimated $100 million annually in supplemental Medicaid payments. This money is above and beyond normal state Medicaid payments and is earmarked for emergency services and trauma care.

An estimated $48 million of the tax will be devoted to research in the life sciences.

But much of this money is earmarked solely for communities along the Interstate 70 corridor. Language in the petition ensures that nearly all the research money will be spent in greater St. Louis, Kansas City, or in the University of Missouri system. Left out are the state's other universities and research centers, including Southwest Missouri State in Springfield and Truman State in Kirksville.

The initiative petition circulated by Citizens for a Healthy Missouri specifies that research institutions outside greater St. Louis, Kansas City or the UM system are essentially ineligible for up to 80 percent of the money based on their geographic location alone.

Other research centers could become eligible for the money only if they could prove that by accessing it they would not "adversely affect" research efforts in Kansas City, St. Louis or the UM system.

Research consortiums in Kansas City, St. Louis, and the university are each guaranteed at least 10 percent of the research money. However, no more than half of the total money could be spent in one consortium.

Brad Ketcher, director of Citizens for A Healthy Missouri, did not return telephone calls Friday.

Of the remaining money raised by the tax, $147 million is earmarked for regular Medicaid payments and prescription drugs for seniors. An additional $48 million is set aside for prevention of tobacco use and new spending for early childhood education programs.

The tobacco tax would go into effect on Jan. 1, but specific rules on how the money is to be spent do not take effect until July. This will allow the state to spend the first six months of revenue, an estimated $172 million, on any one of the programs mentioned in the petition.

State budget director Linda Luebbring has predicted the money will be spent on Medicaid, whose costs are set to soar in the years ahead.

Gov. Bob Holden is expected to outline where he thinks next year's tobacco tax revenue should be spent when he goes to Columbia Monday for a speech at the University of Missouri-Columbia's Brady Commons.