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U. of Mo. Curators choose new system president, chairman supports raising tobacco tax

Warren Erdman, current chairman of the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

The University of Missouri has chosen its next president and expects to announce its decision next week.  Board of Curators chairman Warren Erdman says a search committee began with a pool of more than 100 candidates from academic and non-academic backgrounds alike.

"We had four interviews and we worked our way down to a couple second interviews," Erdman said. "Then there were a few telephone follow-ups.  In the end, the committee recommended a single finalist."

The university is seeking a replacement for Gary Forsee who stepped down in January to care for his ailing wife. Erdman says the committee will announce its decision after finalizing contract negotiations.

During his remarks, Erdman also said that he supports raising tobacco taxes, and that the revenue could help close the University's budget shortfalls.

Erdman says the initiative petition being circulated for next November's ballot would call for a 73 cent tax on every pack of cigarettes. Erdman is working with the American Cancer Society and the Missouri School Boards Association in an effort to offset rising healthcare and education costs.

"I just believe that if you explain to people of Missouri that we have the nation's lowest tobacco tax, by far, and that the proceeds are going to be used to make vital investments in elementary, secondary, higher-ed and public health - I think we've got a shot at it," Erdman said.

Erdman says the tax could generate more than $50 million a year specifically for the University system which faces a $64 million budget gap next year. Missouri has twice voted down tobacco tax increases.

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