Mo. Petroleum Marketer, C-Store Group Seeks 23-Cent Cigarette Tax Hike

“Reasonable” increase better than “outrageous” proposals for even higher taxes

Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association MPCA tobacco tax

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (MPCA), which fought some previously proposed cigarette tax hikes, said it is backing a 23-cent tax increase per pack, reported the Associated Press.

The group has proposed two petitions to raise Missouri’s cigarette tax, currently the lowest in the nation at 17 cents per pack, to 40 cents, a 135% increase. If the proposal is approved for circulation and the group gets enough signatures, the issue would be on the ballot next year.

The move is striking in part because the association was the most prominent opponent of a 2012 initiative to ramp up cigarette taxes to 90 cents per pack. That proposal failed by less than 1%.

But now, with other groups pushing tax hikes higher than the 23-cent proposal, association executive director Ron Leone touted his group’s plans as “reasonable” increases.

“We think the unreasonable and outrageous tax increases are going to fail,” Leone said. “People are going to say ‘no’ to those again.”

An education group is pitching a 50-cent increase, to 67-cents per pack, with plans to earmark the money for early childhood education, the news agency said.

Raise Your Hand for Kids executive director Erin Brower said the 23-cent increase is “reasonable for convenience stores.” But she said the 50-cent increase her group is backing has voter support and would keep Missouri’s competitive advantage for inexpensive cigarettes.

The petroleum marketers’ petitions propose phasing in the 23-cent increase between 2017 and 2021. Leone said the increase could raise more than $800 million in the first decade. One petition would funnel that money into the state’s general revenue fund, while the other would set the revenue aside for transportation needs, AP said.

Leone said that’s not enough to fully address issues with Missouri’s roads and bridges, but he said it would “provide some much needed revenue for our crumbling transportation infrastructure.”

The petitions also call for a 50% tax increase on other tobacco products. The proposal would be void if it is enacted and other proposed tax or fee increases on cigarettes or tobacco products later are approved for a local or state ballot.

Leone said the association filed the petitions early to get feedback on which might be more successful.