If passed, the additional revenue would be put into the Health and Education Trust Fund, where 50 percent would go to K-12 schools, 30 percent to higher education and 20 percent to tobacco use prevention and quit assistance programs.
Supporters estimate that the higher tax could result in millions in additional funding for area school districts, including nearly $3 million for North Kansas City, $2.7 million for Lees Summit and $2.3 million for Kansas City.
Leone, however, questions whether the additional revenue will actually translate into higher funding levels. Lawmakers have a history of using new revenue streams to justify cuts in other state appropriations, he said.
Even if this brought in $300 million for schools, it doesnt guarantee the money that is currently appropriated for schools is going to stay there, he said. The budget is a big shell game, and what goes in the front door can just as easily go right out the back door.
Snodgrass said proponents would be vigilant to ensure the additional revenue is spent in line with how voters intended.
The coalition behind this initiative will be a constant presence in Jefferson City to remind legislators of the voters intent and ensure accountability for its implementation, she said.
In addition to new revenue, Snodgrass said fewer Missourians smoking will also save the state millions of dollars a year. Medicaid costs associated with tobacco-related disease cost taxpayers $532 million annually, she said. Each pack of cigarettes sold in Missouri costs our economy $12.68 in lost productivity and preventable health care expenses, she added.
The low tobacco tax in Missouri costs the state dearly in state tax dollars, in lost productivity, in preventable disease and in premature deaths.
Impact on local business
Leone called the increased tax outrageous and unfair. The real impact of the 90-cent per pack tax would be loss of business, and ultimately jobs, at stores along the states borders.
For some reason were embarrassed for being the lowest cigarette tax, even though that brings a tremendous amount of business into this state, he said.
A study commissioned by Leones organization and performed by Joseph Haslag, an economist at the University of Missouri, found that, if estimates are correct, Proposition B would result in 157 million fewer packs of cigarettes sold in Missouri every year. That would mean the amount collected in sales and other state and local taxes would decrease by $67 million.
Haslags study predicts that would translate to $1.4 million in lost sales taxes for Kansas City and $824,000 for Jackson County.
Thats why this isnt just about smokers, Leone said. Thats why everyone has skin in this game. Our state and local governments are going to lose revenue if this measure passes.
Snodgrass called that argument fatally flawed She said it presumes that with a decrease in smoking, none of the money currently spent on cigarettes will make its way back into the local economy and countered that tobacco use in the state costs an estimated $565 per household in public expenditures.
They are trying to convince voters that Missouris economy is only competitive because we sell deadly, addictive products cheaper than our neighbors, she said. Thats just a false argument. The harm caused by tobacco products is currently subsidized by all Missourians.