Several fee increases were approved by the Missouri Legislature during the recent session (New Tribune, June 10). Lawmakers justified the increases stating fees are only paid by those that use the services, while everyone pays taxes.
Given this rationale, why is that Missouri's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax that only users of the product pay hasn't been increased for two decades? Increases in cigarette taxes (users' fees) have been shown to reduce tobacco use among youth and adults that ultimately can reduce uncompensated medical costs for tobacco-related illnesses that everyone pays for through taxes and higher insurance premiums.
It is time that our elected officials stop tap dancing around the need for increased revenue so that essential services can be provided - whether through fees or taxes. Being a pro-business state does not have to mean the lowest tax state. Businesses want to locate in states that have healthy, well-educated workers. Increasing the cigarette tax could help in both regards - by reducing smoking and providing needed revenue for education and health care.