KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Missouri's status as the cheapest state in the nation for smokers could soon change. Voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to raise the cigarette tax by 73 cents per pack.
Right now, smokers pay 17 cents per pack, which is the lowest tax rate in the U.S. The increase would bring it to 90 cents.
Steve Barbour owns two Cigarettes 4 Less stores along State Line Road in Kansas City, Mo., and opposes "Proposition B."
"The product would go up higher than Kansas by anywhere from $2.50 to $3.50 a carton," Barbour said.
The Kansas tax rate is 79 cents per carton, which is why Barbour's stores are on the Missouri side of the state line. He said Proposition B may force him to move.
"This will probably be the end of us. We'll probably regroup and go back to the Kansas side," Barbour said.
Warren Erdman of Missourians for Health and Education hopes the tax increase passes. The proceeds will add money to the state's schools.
"Even at 90 cents, we'll still be among the lowest, so this is a modest proposal that would provide badly-needed money for our public schools," Erdman said.
He said statewide, the tax will raise $283 million per year for schools. Erdman said that will add up to $2.3 million for Kansas City Public Schools alone.
Erdman said Proposition B will also save Missouri money.
"Tobacco-related illnesses in Missouri cost taxpayers $532 million a year," he explained.
Barbour argues it will actually cost Missouri more by missing out on sales tax revenue.
If Proposition B passes, Missouri tax rates will still be far from the highest in the nation. New York smokers pay $4.35 per pack. Virginia is currently the second-lowest at 30 cents per pack.
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