Proposition B, the initiative to raise Missouri's cigarette tax on the Nov. 6 ballot, has both positive and negative impacts on Phelps County depending on whether you listen to supporters or the opposition.
If the proposition passes in this November election, it would raise state taxes on cigarettes from 17 cents per pack to 90 cents per pack, a 73-cent increase. The state's 17-cent tax is the lowest in the nation.
Prop B is expected to generate $283 million in new revenue annually. Twenty percent of the proceeds from the tax would finance tobacco abstinence programs, 50 percent would go toward K-12 education and 30 percent would go for higher education.
According to Show-Me A Brighter Future, a group supporting the passage of Prop B, it is estimated to bring in over $1 million to four school districts in Phelps County.
Based on the organization's estimates, if Prop B passes, it would mean an additional $617,064.15 per year in funds for Rolla Public Schools, $277,760.82 for the St. James R-I School District, $69,998.06 for the Newburg R-II School District and $41,843.27 for the Phelps County R-III School District.
Julie Sally, of Show-Me A Brighter Future, said those figures are based on average daily attendance in the districts and the $283 million revenue projection.
"We feel that's a stable, predictable source of funding and factors in reduced smoking rates, but (amounts in) those first years could be higher," Sally said.
However, Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which opposes Prop B, said those figures are not accurate.
"There is no way on God's green Earth that they can guarantee the current appropriations (for education) will stay the same," Leone said, comparing this initiative to what he called "broken promises" from lottery and casino revenue to fund education.
Leone said Joseph Haslag, a University of Missouri-Columbia economist, was hired to do a study that looked at Prop B's impact on state, county and municipal revenues.
"The price increase will have adverse effects on the state, county and municipal revenues that rely on cigarette purchases," reports Haslag. "Fiscal impacts will be widespread and felt by every political subdivision in the state of Missouri…no one will be held harmless if Proposition B passes."
In his study, Haslag stated that Prop B will decrease state, county and municipal revenues by at least $67 million. The decreases are found with reductions to the State School Money Fund, the Health Initiative Fund, the Fair Share Fund, state sales tax and local cigarette excise taxes.
His study stated that Phelps County is expected to lose $42,661.75 just in sales tax revenue, and Rolla could see a decrease of $15,006 in local cigarette excise taxes.
Leone said Haslag's study is based on the proponents' prediction that 157 million fewer packs of cigarettes will be sold every year.
Page 2 of 2 - The study states that Rolla could have an expected annual decrease in cigarettes of 300,113.
"This is not just a tax on smokers. Proposition B is a tax everybody pays," Leone said.
According to Leone, Missouri draws consumers from bordering states who not only spend their money on cigarettes here but purchase gas and other items in Missouri, which affects the state's sales and gas taxes.
Raising Missouri's cigarette excise tax to 90 cents per pack would put Missouri in the middle of the pack compared to the states it borders.
Four states — Kentucky (60 cents), Tennessee (62 cents), Nebraska (64 cents) and Kansas (79 cents) — would be lower than Missouri and four states — Oklahoma ($1.03), Arkansas ($1.15), Iowa ($1.36) and Illinois ($1.98) — would be higher. The national average is $1.49.
"It's time Missouri is no longer at the bottom of the list in terms of states that care about the health of its citizens," said Lonna Sowers, project coordinator, SAFE Rolla, who spoke during a Prop B Bus tour stop in Rolla Oct. 8.
She said the signs seen around town about a 760 percent increase are misleading. "I am voting yes," she said of Prop B.
"The time is right to pass this meaningful tax," said Misty Snodgrass, spokesperson for the Show-Me A Brighter Future/American Cancer Society, during the bus tour stop in Rolla.
The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association has a website regarding Prop B, http://nomotax.com, and Show-Me A Brighter Future's website is http://www.showmeabrighterfuture.com.
The complete text of the proposition ran in the Oct. 17 issue of the Rolla Daily News.