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MO Sup. Court keeps tobacco tax proposal on ballot

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – The Missouri Supreme Court is allowing a proposal to raise the state's tobacco tax to appear on the November ballot.

The court ruled unanimously Wednesday that backers of the measure collected enough valid signatures from voters to secure a ballot spot.

Cindy Erickson is with the Committee for a Healthy Future, the group behind the proposal.

"We are very excited that it is official, and we are certainly moving into our grassroots efforts as we speak," Erickson said.

If voters approve the measure, Missouri's 17-cent-per-pack cigarette tax would go up to 97 cents, and taxes on other tobacco products would triple.

The money would go toward smoking prevention programs and into a new health care trust fund.

Opponents claim the measure will not raise enough money to cover those programs, and may cause other taxes to go up.

Tobacco tax opponents have not said if they'll ask for a re-hearing.

But Cathy Nugent with Americans for Prosperity says her group will step up efforts to defeat the proposal at the polls.

"The legislation looks great on its face," Nugent said. "When you dig in to the seven pages that you don't see on the ballot, it creates an unfunded mandate that will result in tax hikes or program cuts across the board."

Missouri's current cigarette tax is the second lowest in the country behind South Carolina.