Election 2016: Pros and cons of Missouri’s Amendment 3, the 60 cent proposed tobacco tax | St. Louis Public Radio

Election 2016: Pros and cons of Missouri’s Amendment 3, the 60 cent proposed tobacco tax

Nov 3, 2016

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, St. Louis on the Air hosted a moderated conversation in the Community Room at St. Louis Public Radio about Amendments 3, 4 and 6 as well as Proposition A. This was an effort to inform voters on statewide ballot issues they would see on Nov. 8.

The third part of the conversation centered on Amendment 3, which would increase the taxes on cigarette packs to 60 cents by 2020 and impose an additional fee on tobacco wholesalers at an initial rate of 67 cents per pack. The proceeds of the tax would go to an early childhood trust fund.

Seventy-five percent of those funds would go to early childhood education, up to 15 percent of those funds would go to Missouri health care facilities to improve early childhood health and no less than five percent of those funds would go to smoking cessation/prevention programs.

This measure is one of two tobacco tax-related measures on Missouri’s ballot. The other is Proposition A. Read pros and cons of that measure here.

During this part of the conversation, we heard from one proponent and one opponent of Amendment 3. Jane Dueker, J.D., Of Counsel for Spencer Fane and spokesperson for “Yes on 3 for Kids,” represented the “pro” side of the argument. Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, represented the “con” side of the argument.

Want an in-depth, objective analysis of what the amendment would do? Read this story from St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies: “Rival tobacco tax proposals focus all their energies on Missouri's Amendment 3.

You can listen to the full conversation here:

Below, please find major “pro” and “con” arguments summarized.

PRO: Jane Dueker wants people to vote “Yes” on Constitutional Amendment 3. Here are her main points:

Jane Dueker is a proponent of Constitutional Amendment 3.
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

  • This tax would provide $300 million in funding for early childhood education, healthcare and smoking cessation programs. Right now, Missouri can’t even fund the K-12 Foundation Formula, so any extra funding is needed for early childhood education.
  • By filing this as an amendment, we were able to make a constitutional “lock box” that would keep the legislature and special interests from taking money that is specifically dedicated to this fund, like what happened with lottery funds.
  • Right now, only 3 percent of 4-year-olds in Missouri are in a publicly-funded preschool. Missouri is behind states like Oklahoma with 76 percent, Illinois with 27 percent and Arkansas with 38 percent.
  • Higher tobacco taxes have failed in 2002, 2006 and 2012. This is more reasonable and we don’t have a clause that says another tobacco tax could not be added on top of this one to give that “sticker shock” to consumers.
  • This closes a loophole that kept cheap cigarette companies from paying their fair share into a 1998 court settlement to recover some of state governments’ tobacco-related health-care costs. Now, smaller tobacco companies would pay a 67-cents-a-pack hike on low-cost cigarettes in addition to the 60 cent tax on all cigarettes. This would give Missouri $1 billion annually we currently don’t get. Missouri is the only state that hasn’t closed this loophole and the state is a “dumping ground” for the cheapest cigarettes in the country.
  • Groups that oppose this either think the tax is not high enough (health groups) or that they don’t get money from this fund (pro-choice and research institutions).
  • Missouri’s Foundation Formula public school funding starts at kindergarten and cannot fund early childhood education. This money could go to public or private early childhood education entities in a way it would not be distributed through the foundation formula.  
  • $15-30 million dollars would be raised through this tax that would go to smoking cessation programs.
  • The fund will be administered by a board of unelected people because they have special experience in early childhood education. A “person of faith” is required on the board because of their position as a community anchor.

Essentially, Jane Dueker wants people to vote “Yes” on Amendment 3 because the money from the tax would provide $300 million in funding for early childhood education, which is lacking Missouri.

CON: Ron Leone wants people to vote “No” on Constitutional Amendment 3. Here are his main points:

Ron Leone is an opponent of Amendment 3.
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

  • This amendment is a scam funded by “big tobacco” companies who are using children as pawns to make money on cigarette sales by crushing “little tobacco” company competition. Big tobacco companies have poured nearly $13 million into trying to pass this.
  • There are a variety of groups, from liberal to conservative, that oppose this measure like big health groups (American Cancer Society, American Heart Association), pro-life and pro-choice groups (Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Missouri Alliance for Freedom), education groups (Missouri NEA, retired teachers association),  medical research groups (Washington University), newspapers across the state, and groups like the ACLU and AFL-CIO.
  • This amendment would put the term “abortion” into our state constitution, where it has never been before. There is also language banning the funds from being used for stem cell and cloning research.
  • This will change a provision of the Missouri Constitution that has been there since 1875 which keeps public funds from going to private or parochial schools.
  • The funds can’t be used to lobby for any tobacco tax increases or to fund tobacco-related research.
  • The tax only applies to cigarettes, not other tobacco products, which make tobacco companies a lot more money.
  • A group of “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats” should not be in charge of determining where the funds gathered from this can go.

Essentially, Ron Leone wants people to vote “no” on Amendment 3 because big tobacco companies are trying to crush little tobacco company competition under the guise of helping children.

Want to read more pro/cons about Missouri ballot measures? Read these perspectives about Constitutional Amendment 6Constitutional Amendment 4 and Proposition A

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.