Amy Lutz

I grew up in the border town of Atchison, Kansas, and vividly recall the perpetual eastbound traffic across the Amelia Earhart Bridge as my fellow Atchisonians made the trip into Missouri. They hoped to take advantage of the lower excise taxes on cigarettes, gas, and alcohol.

A gas station and liquor store were located just across the border on the other side of the bridge; their parking lots rarely had an open space. Conversely, in Atchison, the liquor bottles and cigarette packs collected dust on store shelves while gas pumps remained unused. The higher excise taxes in Kansas on these products drove business away from my home state and into her eastern neighbor’s economy.

This scenario soon may become a distant memory. The American Cancer Society is leading a coalition that submitted a ballot initiative to the Missouri Secretary of State on Sept. 20. The proposed measure is expected to generate $308 million annually through tax increases on tobacco products, primarily cigarettes.

A similar initiative failed in 2002 and 2006. Like the 2006 vote, this initiative includes a proposed 80-cent increase in the cigarette tax, bumping the total tax to 97 cents if passed. This proposition, however, will not affect just the Show-Me State, but surrounding states as well, a point the Show-Me Institute has covered in the past. As David Stokes, a policy analyst for the institute, alluded to in an Aug. 4 blog post and video, Missouri’s neighbors often are propelled to make tobacco purchases in this state because of its attractively low cigarette tax.

The cigarette tax in Kansas now stands at 79 cents, 18 cents cheaper than the proposed tax increase in Missouri. What is intended to be a profitable deal for Missouri will prove to be more beneficial for the state of Kansas. The incentive for Kansas to cross the border in pursuit of a cheaper pack will be eliminated. Missouri stands to lose some revenue from the current cigarette tax; other revenue-increasing proposals, such as the fair tax, would not balance out this budget loss.

Should this initiative pass, the eastbound cigarette-seeking Kansans who flood into this state might be replaced by Missourians driving in the opposite direction.

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