JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After helping block three statewide votes over the last decade, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association now has helped write a proposed cigarettes-only tax increase that it "can and will" support, according to a report by The News Tribune.
Missouri currently imposes a 17-cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes, said the report, the lowest tax in the nation. In 2002, Missouri voters defeated a proposed 55-cents-per-pack hike by a 1.7% margin. In 2006, they rejected a constitutional amendment proposal by a 2.83% margin. And a 1.6% margin of the statewide vote blocked last fall's proposition to raise the excise tax by 73 cents per pack.
"The voters were not saying no to any and all cigarette tax increases," Ron Leone, the association's executive director, told the Senate's Ways & Means Committee. "We believe the voters were saying no to the outrageous and unfair tax increases contained in those three initiative petitions."
State Senator John Lamping (R) has proposed raising the state's excise tax by 13 cents, the report said. Last year, Lamping proposed a tax increase to 36 cents per pack from the current 17 cents. His new proposal raises the tax to 13 cents effective Jan. 2019, phased in with a five-cent hike beginning Jan. 1, 2015; another nickel beginning Jan. 1, 2017; and the final three cents beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
Leone said his association opposed the previous increases because they were too big. The new proposal "maintains the competitive tax advantage we have over our eight border states," he told the newspaper.
He said supporters of the previous ballot issues wanted to raise Missouri's tax closer to high-tax states. But, Leone said, "The only thing I care about is the ability for your constituent small businesses to continue to compete with their market area."