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COLUMBIA - University of Missouri Curator, Warren Erdman, is working on ways to increase the current state cigarette tax.  Missouri ranks 51 for lowest taxes nationwide.  

Erdman is pushing for a 73 cent increase to the current 17 cent tax, with the proposed increase Missouri is still below the national average of $1.46.  Missouri, California and North Dakota are the only three states that have not increased its cigarette tax since 1999 or earlier.

A cigarette tax increase has been proposed several other times in Missouri legislative history, but never made it through.  Erdman said he has no sponsor yet for his initiative. 

Erdman also said as a private citizen he has taken a petition to the Secretary of State, and plans for it to be on the November ballot.  The proposal will take revenue from the tax increase and feed it into the Missouri K-12 Public School System.  Moberly Public School District Superintendent, Gena McCluskey says at this economic period additional funding from anywhere is needed.

"I'm not going to take a stance on a tax related issue, but during a time like this funding is needed for education," said McCluskey.

McCluskey also said without additional funding to the Moberly Public School District the first to go would be in personnel.  "When you're looking at big budget cuts and we are not fully funded personnel is where you have to go, in a budget that is heavily weighted in personnel."

The initiative also plans to set aside 25% of its revenue for training health care professionals, and 20% to public health.  "We badly need nurses, dentists, doctors and other health care professionals and this initiative will give us the opportunity to train these people," said Erdman.