Barack Obama

John Winston, Committeeman for the Gravois Township shares his thoughts on increasing the Cigarette Tax in Missouri:The tobacco tax increase, which has been labeled Proposition B, would generate an estimated $284 million for public schools, state colleges and universities, and smoking cessation programs.

I am not opposed to something that is focused on minimizing a bad habit but there are concerns.

First, if the anti-smoking programs work, there will be less cigarettes used. This will, by its very essence, cut the “tax” revenue every year as people stop smoking. If there is little or no impact on smoking, it is a way to raise state revenue in a devious way.

Second, as you are probably aware, a few years ago there was significant revenue that came into Missouri through the tobacco settlement by which cigarette manufacturers agreed to pay large sums of money to each state for misrepresentation in advertising. Rather than Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office handling this, it was passed to several private law firms around the state. Each firm made $$$$$$$$$$ but the state generated little revenue and virtually NONE of the plans for state revenue materialized, therefore no plans of consequence went anywhere.

There are targeted uses for any state revenue generated. Is this a “lock box” plan like Social Security and Medicare. You are aware that in the 60’s, President Johnson released Social Security money collected into the federal revenue stream, hence we have the current cash flow problem with both of these programs.

As mentioned at the outset, I am not opposed to plans for quitting smoking. But I am absolutely opposed to another new revenue source for the state that will ultimately go into more spending on absolutely nothing related to its intent. This happened in the 80’s under Governor John Ashcroft, along with the Missouri General Assembly, which approved the Missouri Lottery with funding to go into education. While lottery profit did and does go to education, the percent of general revenue that was intended for the same purpose never did get to education. If university funding were to increase by millions under this plan, the state is under no obligation to continue funding any university or K12 program with the same amount it currently receives as a part of general revenue, similar to the lottery

In summary, quit smoking plan – YES; tax on smoking – NO

John Winston