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Government, Politics & Issues

Appeals court to decide fate of cigarette tax increase

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A Missouri appeals court will hear arguments Thursday in a case that could result in a proposed cigarette tax increases being kicked off the November ballot.

The Raise Your Hand For Kids initiative would boost the state's cigarette tax of 17 cents per pack to 60 cents per pack by the year 2020, and charge cigarette wholesalers a fee of 67 cents per pack of 20 cigarettes. Funds would be directed to early childhood education, (including, controversially, to religious schools), and to smoking cessation programs.

Jim Boeving, the owner of a convenience store in Springfield, Mo., sued, arguing that a fiscal note prepared by Auditor Nicole Galloway and a summary of the ballot measure prepared by Secretary of State Jason Kander, both Democrats, were unfair. In May, a Cole County judge, Daniel Green, upheld the summary statement but threw out the fiscal note and ordered Galloway to prepare a new one.

Galloway and Boeving appealed the ruling. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Western District will hear the case on an expedited schedule, since ballots for the November election must be certified by Aug. 30.

If the judges find that the summary statement is unfair, the initiative could be disqualified for the November ballot. That's because individuals who signed the petitions to put the measure on the ballot arguably relied on that summary statement when deciding whether or not to sign.

A second cigarette tax proposal would phase in a 23-cent-a-pack increase. It ha snot faced legal challenge.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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