Nixon's silence snuffed out cigarette tax
The Kansas City Star
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s silent and selfish stance played a key role in derailing the cigarette tax increase on Tuesday.
Officially, he took no stand on hiking the embarrassingly low 17-cent-a-pack tax, the nation’s lowest. Worried about his re-election chances while running against weak Republican opponent Dave Spence, Nixon didn’t spend any political capital gained over 20 years as a taxpayer-supported public official to promote the needed change.
Instead of working for the greater good of the state, Nixon stayed silent, playing up to some of the ultra-conservative, tax-hating Misourians.
Instead of fighting for a tax that could have generated hundreds of millions of dollars to support schools and universities, Nixon stayed silent.
Instead of trying to reduce the harm done by smoking to thousands of Missourians, Nixon stayed silent.
Instead of going around the state to combat the lies told about the extent of the tax increase, Nixon stayed silent.
Instead of telling Missourians he would make sure the legislature obeyed the law and spent the tax as promised in Proposition B, Nixon stayed silent.
The tax failed by fewer than 44,000 votes, a slim margin out of almost 2.7 million votes cast.
By campaigning for the tax, Nixon could have helped turn 22,000 votes and helped pass it.
That’s what a real leader would have done.
Now Nixon has to live with his decision. Perhaps he thought - like many did - that the tax increase would pass anyway, without his backing, and that he would benefit from having all that money in the future to spend for education and smoking cessation programs.
But he won’t get that money to play with.
Nixon has himself to blame, in large part, for the fact that he and the legislature will be grappling with budget-busting decisions in the years ahead.
Those decisions could have been a whole lot easier to make if the governor had shown some spine by supporting the higher cigarette tax in 2012.