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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A proposed hike to the state's cigarette excise tax is getting support from an unexpected source: the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.
The association of convenience store and gas station owners has proposed two petitions to raise Missouri's cigarette tax, currently the lowest in the nation at 17 cents per pack, to 40 cents per pack. If the proposal is approved for circulation and the group gets enough signatures, the issue would be on the ballot next year, according to CBS St. Louis.
Citing a report from The Associated Press, the news station noted the move is striking in part because the association was the most prominent opponent of a 2012 initiative to hike cigarette taxes to 90 cents per pack. That proposal failed by less than 1 percent.
However, this time, association Executive Director Ron Leone said the group's plans are "reasonable" increases.
"We think the unreasonable and outrageous tax increases are going to fail," Leone said. "People are going to say 'no' to those again."
By comparison, Raise Your Hand for Kids, an education group, is pushing for a 50-cent increase, which would bring the levy to 67 cents per pack. The education group is calling for the money to be earmarked for early childhood education.
Raise Your Hand for Kids Executive Director Erin Brower said the 23-cent increase is "reasonable for convenience stores." But she said the 50-cent increase her group is backing has voter support and would keep Missouri's competitive advantage for inexpensive cigarettes.
The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association petitions propose phasing in the 23-cent increase between 2017 and 2021.
Leone said the increase could raise more than $800 million in the first 10 years. One petition would direct that money into the state's general revenue fund, while the other would set the revenue aside for transportation needs.
The petitions also call for a 50-percent tax increase on other tobacco products. The proposal would be void if it's enacted and other proposed tax or fee increases on cigarettes or tobacco products later are approved for a local or state ballot, the report said.
Leone said the association filed the petitions early to get feedback on which one might be more successful.