So, let’s turn a bit local for a second. The MO constitution is insanely easy to amend (something I hope the MO Legislature will fix some day) effectively making it a “dumping ground” for whatever the idea du jour is.
Enter Missouri Amendment 3, a tobacco tax of fairly epic proportions (considering MO’s low tobacco tax rate) which seems to be gaining considerable steam around the state, and is likely to pass by a large margin.
Part of the reason I suspect it’s doing so well is that progressives love the two things it has in it: 1) MOAR SCHOOL FUNDING, for the children, you understand and 2) punishing people who do things they don’t like, in this case smoking. The fact that progressives can grab money for a pet project without coming within a mile of their pockets or the pockets of people they know, only make this a more tantalizing effort for them.
I expected the local free market think thank, The Show-Me Institute, to come out strongly opposed to proposal, especially since Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds, et al. stuck in a provision designed to punish the smaller companies that didn’t sign on to the 1998 tobacco “Master Settlement Agreement” that paid out to 46 states (including Missouri)via mandating a special “equity assessment fee” which in reality is a $0.67 tax on those smaller companies alone in addition to the increased general tobacco tax. Large company uses power of government to crush smaller competition, not exactly Free Market, but I guess not enough reason for a free market think thank to call this what it is: shit.
Instead, I found this sort of mealy-mouthed “Good, Bad, Ugly” post that seems to want to avoid taking sides at all costs. Since someone needs to point out what an epically bad idea this is, I’m offering up the following, which was a post I made to Facebook, a full throated attack on this mess. It’s fairly short (hence this massive intro.)
Hey there friends, believe it or not, I don’t do a lot of politicking on this page, but let’s talk about MO amendment 3. It’s a horrible idea. Whatever you think of school funding, tobacco taxes are the worst way to fund anything. Let’s count the ways:
1) they’re perhaps the most regressive tax you can have (utility taxes are a close second.) Smokers are disproportionately lower middle and lower class. We tend to not care because we feel it’s “their fault” for smoking or we think of them as “other” since many of us don’t know many active smokers.
2) anti smoking campaigns make tobacco income highly unstable. We try to discourage people from smoking and if we want this to succeed, then the revenue will dry up over time. (Meanwhile schools will become more dependent on this funding because money is fungible so they’ll get less general revenue if this goes into effect.)
(OK so there’s really 2 major reasons but they’re big reasons.)
TL;DR if you really care about both school funding and the problems faced by the lower middle and lower class, Amendment 3 is a POS.
The argument for Amendment 3 primarily consists of “for the children!” and “we have the lowest tobacco tax rate in the US!” On the latter front you’ll note Missouri has some of the lowest alcohol taxes in the nation and yet, no one proposes raising those to fund these things. I stand by what I said in point 1 above: it’s because many progressives drink, but don’t smoke. So they’ll tax the thing they think is bad to spare themselves from taxing the thing they enjoy.
Let’s call out this bullshit as bullshit, and end it while we can. If you’re in MO, or know someone in MO please tell them what a bad idea this is.