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MO Supreme Court to hear tobacco tax case

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By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – The Missouri Supreme Court will decide whether voters will see a proposal to raise the tobacco tax on the November ballot. Justices have set arguments for Oct. 3.

Election authorities initially said that supporters of the tobacco tax measure had failed to get enough valid signatures from registered voters to put it on the ballot. But a judge last week over-turned that decision and ordered the question onto the ballot. Judge Thomas Brown ruled election officials in the Kansas City area had failed to count 1,004 valid signatures. Ballot access for petitions is based on getting enough signatures in each congressional district, and the initial rejection was because supporters fell slightly short of getting enough names in the 5th District.

In his ruling, Brown also rejected various other arguments by supporters trying to get additional signatures counted and by opponents trying to disqualify some signatures that were counted.

The Supreme Court could consider all of those issues in the appeal of Brown's ruling.

The ballot measure would more than quintuple Missouri's cigarette tax, raising it to $0.97 a pack instead of the current $0.17. Taxes on other tobacco products would triple to 30% of the manufacturer's invoice price, instead of the current 10%.

If approved, the tax increase would take effect Jan. 1, with the projected proceeds of at least $351 million annually going toward health care and anti-tobacco programs.

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