Lawmaker to Missouri voters on cigarette tax: Drop dead
The Kansas City Star
Tim Jones is the new speaker of the Missouri House. The St. Louis area Republican apparently is full of the notion that he and his fellow GOP House members can spend hundreds of millions in potential new cigarette tax revenues any darn way they want.
Jones told The Star’s editorial board Monday that the wishes of elected officials are always going to be more important than what the voters decide through approved initiatives.
It’s the kind of arrogance that Missourians are used to seeing with their often inept General Assembly, including when lawmakers overturned some tough voter-approved protections in a puppy mill law a few years back.
In this case, though, Jones’ arrogance requires a firm, full-court push back from supporters of the cigarette tax, which is on the ballot next Tuesday.
Simply put, if Missouri voters approve boosting the nation’s lowest tax from 17 cents a pack to 90 cents a pack, all of the K-12 education officials, all of the university leaders and all of the health-related officials supporting the tax better be on guard.
They will have to make sure their local state legislators don’t monkey around with the cigarette tax money and divert it to pet projects that have nothing to do with how those funds are supposed to be spent.
Remember, the groups pushing this tax have a lot at stake - and have spent plenty to get this far.
As The Star reported today, “The anti-smoking group, Missourians for Health and Education, had raised about $4.8 million as of last week. A little less than a third of that, about $1.4 million, has come from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.”
That’s a lot of money to put behind this important cause. And it’s a lot of money that better not go down the drain because the legislature tries to use the funds for other uses.
Make no mistake: As The Star editorial points out, there are a number of safeguards in place meant to protect the will of the people when it comes to using the cigarette tax.
However, since Jones appears ready to go on a power trip with the funds, it would behoove the education officials to be on their toes.
The most important first step is to get the tax approved on Nov. 6.