By Marshall Griffin, KWMU
Jefferson City, MO – A St. Louis lawmaker wants to raise Missouri's cigarette tax as a means of providing needed revenue.
The bill by Democratic House member Jamilah Nasheed would raise taxes on cigarettes from 17 to 33 cents a pack. She argued for the tax hike in a hearing Wednesday before the House Tax Reform Committee.
"Wouldn't you like to have $90 million coming into the general revenue on a permanent basis? We need a permanent infusion of tax dollars to be generated throughout this state," Nasheed told the committee.
But State Representative Ed Emery (R, Lamar) questioned whether that type of tax increase would be good for the state, during an exchange with Nasheed.
Nasheed: "These monies will go straight to..."
Emery: "Are you a smoker, Representative (Nasheed)?"
Nasheed: "No sir."
Emery: "Are you thinking about becoming a smoker, is that something that you think is a good idea?"
Nasheed: "If you work my nerves too much, I may go take a puff, I don't know!"
Nasheed's last comment sparked laughter among everyone in the room, Emery included.
Emery also questioned whether raising the cigarette tax would create a permanent revenue infusion, citing state policies that encourage people not to smoke.
Nasheed added that even with an increase, Missouri would still have one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country.
The average state tax for cigarettes is about $1.10 per pack.
New Jersey has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, at $2.57-1/2 per pack. South Carolina is the cheapest at 7 cents per pack.