Secretary of state gets 4 petitions involving tobacco, income taxes

Missourians have until Feb. 8 to comment on four new initiative petition proposals submitted to Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office Friday.

All four would change the Missouri Constitution’s Article 10, involving revenue to the state, to allow increased tobacco taxes and a reduction in personal income taxes.

As with other petitions submitted to Kander’s office, each of the petitions offers a slightly different approach to accomplishing the goal.

By state law, the secretary’s office first must approve the “form” of the submitted petition, to determine if it meets the law’s requirements.

If it does, Kander has 10 days to draft the language explaining the proposal that would appear on both the petitions and on the statewide election ballot, if the petition-signing campaign gets the needed number of registered voters’ signatures to be placed on the ballot.

When he became secretary of state a year ago, Kander began the public comment period, giving Missouri residents a change to comment on the proposal to the secretary’s office.

Kander’s staff will review all the comments it receives, using the information to help it draft ballot language that might help voters understand the proposal better.

The four proposals are 2014-110, -111, -112 and -113.

Each can be seen through links on Kander’s website, www.sos.mo.gov.

Each proposed amendment would establish a “reduction factor” calculating a percentage of growth in tobacco taxes proposed by the amendment that would be used to reduce income taxes, and says that should be “not less than one tenth of one percent.”

And each proposed amendment says: “The existing rate of the individual income tax shall be permanently reduced by the reduction factor effective the immediately ensuing tax year.”

Each petition includes one or more proposed tobacco tax changes “in addition to all other taxes imposed” on cigarettes or tobacco products:

• A 17 cents per pack (of 20 cigarettes) “special assessment,” to be paid by the wholesaler and collected by the state Revenue department in the same way it collects other cigarette taxes.

• A 55 cents per pack “equity assessment” imposed on “the purchase, storage, use, consumption, handling, distribution or wholesale sale of non-participating manufacturer cigarettes,” with “non-participating manufacturer” to be defined by the state law in effect when the amendment goes into effect.

• A new, 1 cent “special assessment” for each .01 fluid ounce of “vapor product” such as an “electronic cigarette.”

All four proposed amendments, if passed by voters, would prohibit counties and other political subdivisions from imposing “any new or increased tax, license, fee or special assessment” on vapor products “except as imposed on all other taxable tangible property.”

If Kander’s office approves any, or all, of the proposed amendments for circulation, supporters have until 5 p.m. May 4 to submit the signatures of registered voters from at least six of the state’s eight congressional districts, totaling at least 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2012 election, in each district.

Cole County lawyer Marc Ellinger submitted the four petitions, but did not identify what client supports the proposals.

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