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This Week's Stouffer Report: Up in Smoke: Politicians and Tax Increases

This Week's Stouffer Report: Up in Smoke: Politicians and Tax Increases

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Published by Bill Stouffer
Stouffer Report
Stouffer Report

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Published by: Bill Stouffer on Oct 29, 2012
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October 29, 2012
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Up in Smoke: Politicians and TaxIncreases
Over the last several weeks, I havediscussedballot measures we will vote on in November. Of the four initiatives, the tobacco tax increase
also known asProposition B 
has spurredthe most feedback. Many readers havementioned that Missouri has the lowest tobaccotax in the nation and that cigarettes can damageour health. Others said that a 760 percent taxincrease is too much in difficult economic times.I agree that now is a poor time to raise taxes.To me, this proposed tax increase seems toolarge. For those who believe the funds will go toa good purpose, I will remind them ourchallenge is not a lack of budget funds, but howwe spend them. The solution is not morerevenue raised on the backs of hard-workingcitizens; it is prioritizing the funds available.If Proposition B is passed, it will be one of the
largest tax hikes in Missouri’s history. The funds
from this increase are to go to our state'sschools and other worthy causes.However, I still hear from constituents who are
frustrated that gaming funds
casinos and thelottery
do not seem to be an addition to whatour schools are receiving from the state. All of these funds were supposed to fund our schoolsand help solve our education problems. Sincethen, our largest two school districts havebecome unaccredited. And now, we are facedwith yet another campaign to raise taxes for ourschools that could end with a broken promise.Those supporting Proposition B claim lawmakerscould only use the money for education andhealth care. Missourians have rejected similartax increases on the ballot in 2002 and 2006. Myfear is that the additional funds will only preventus from making the tough decisions necessary tocut wasteful spending in our state.Since 2001, the state has received more than$1.8 billion in funds from theTobacco MasterSettlement Agreement.These funds comedirectly from tobacco companies ascompensation stemming from a lawsuit in themid-1990s. Of the $1.8 billion allocated toMissouri thus far, only 0.3 percent of the fundshave gone to tobacco prevention programs.So, where has all of the money gone? It hashelped fund certain programs not necessarilyrelated to tobacco prevention or even education.It is important to understand, Proposition B is aninitiative and the Legislature has the ability tooverturn or make changes to its intent andpurposes.Proposition B would also establish a commissionof political appointees to spend almost $60million of our tax dollars per year withoutoversight. This unelected panel could spend taxdollars on virtually whatever they want with zeroaccountability.Diverting money is a classic way to avoid toughdecisions to cut spending. I am concerned that

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