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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The candidates vying to become the next governor of Missouri are not in favor of a proposed cigarette tax increase, but the voters -- not the candidates -- will have the final say in November.
When they head to the polls in 43 days, Missouri voters will cast votes for or against Proposition B, which would raise Missouri's cigarette tax to 90 cents from its current 17 cents -- the lowest in the United States, according to the Associated Press. The move is expected to generate between $283 million and $423 million a year. Half of the additional revenue is earmarked for public schools, 20 percent for higher education and the remaining 20 percent for tobacco cessation programs, the report added.
However, during a gubernatorial candidate debate on Friday, Sept. 21, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said the tax increase is not the proper way to fund high education. His Republican challenger, Dave Spencer, said he does not support the measure right now.
Measures to raise the state's cigarette tax have been defeated twice in the last decade, according to an earlier report by the Post-Dispatch.com. This time, however, big tobacco companies are not fighting the proposal. A key reason, according to the news outlet, is that the measure includes a provision that would eliminate a pricing advantage enjoyed by smaller, off-brand cigarette companies that didn't participate in the national tobacco settlement in 1998.
If the measure passes, Missouri's tax would rank 33rd instead of 50th in the country. However, border states Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska and Kansas would have lower rates, ranging from 60 cents in Kentucky to 79 cents in Kansas. Illinois, which recently raised its rate to $1.98 per pack, would still impose a rate more than double Missouri's. Proposition B also would levy a 25 percent tax on loose tobacco for rolling cigarettes and a 15 percent tax on cigars and other tobacco products, according to the report.