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324-percent tax increase put on November Ballot

September 16, 2002
By: Martha Kang
State Capital Bureau

I'm Martha Kang in Jefferson City, where a circuit judge has ruled a 324-percent tax increase to appear on the November ballot.

The tax will bring in a third of a billion dollars per year, which is stipulated to be used for medical research and smoking prevention, as well as childcare programs.

If the tax increase is passed, the tax on the price of a pack of cigarettes would jump from 17-cents to 72-cents.

The ballot initiative have been reexamined in the court, after the Secretary of State Matt Blunt rejected a little less than half of the signatures from the Second Congressional District.

This left the Citizens for Healthy Missouri, the sponsors of the ballot initiative, short of the required number of the signatures.

However, the judge ruled the signatures are valid, after hearing a testimony from a handwriting expert.

The Citizens for Healthy Missouri spokesperson Brad Ketcher says the tax increase will benefit Missouri.

RT:10 (Ketcher1)

OC:

Ketcher says the tax raise will encourage many smokers to cut back on their habit.

However, not all agree that the tax will be so beneficial.

An organization of gas stations and convenience stores oppose the tax.

The vice president of the group Rob Leone says the tax will mean losses for the state.

Leone says the tax will drive sales away from Missouri to bordering states and the internet.

Leone also says black market merchants will smuggle in cigarettes from states with cheaper tobacco taxes.

RT:11 (Leone1)

OC:

Leone says the group is especially concerned with the tax since six of the eight bordering states of Missouri have cheaper tobacco taxes.

The American Lung Association says the increase in tobacco tax is a growing national trend.

18 states have already increased their tobacco taxes just this year.

In New York City, a pack of cigarettes now cost more than seven dollars, because the state and city taxes add up to almost three dollars.

Spokesperson Ketcher of Citizens of Healthy Missouri says the state needs the tax increase in order to stay in tune with the other states.

RT:(Ketcher2)

OC:

Ketcher says the tax is especially necessary to compete with Illinois and Kansas.

The Secretary of State's office has ten days to make an appeal.

The office has not yet made a decision on whether it will do so.

From the state Capital, I'm Martha Kang.