Petition to hike up cigarette taxes in Missouri

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COLUMBIA - A group in Missouri is sponsoring a petition to establish a constitutional amendment that would increase cigarette taxes.

The group called the "Raise Your Hand For Kids" wants to hike up the state's taxes on cigarettes to 15 cents per pack for four years (2017-2020). The purpose for the tax increase is to fund "vital early childhood programs." The amendment is called the "Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment."

The petition must get 160,000 signatures by May 8th for it to move forward. In the past 15 years, a cigarette tax increase proposal has come up three different times. Voters turned it all down. 

According to the group's revenue projections, about $300 million dollars would be made, once the taxes are fully phased in. 

Linda Rallo is the executive director of "Raise Your Hand For Kids" and said the tax hike would aid the need in the investment of education in Missouri. 

"We took a long time preparing for this and we looked at the past attempts of this tax increase on cigarettes," Rallo said. "After tough analysis, it was all about timing. 2016 is an open seat gubernatorial and presidential election which means more voters will go out to the polls and hopefully support our initiative." 

Rallo also said they are facing challenges from Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. She said they usually oppose tobacco taxes and want to protect the low taxes on cigarettes.

Rallo said Missouri has one of the lowest taxes on cigarettes at 17 cents.

Kansas has a cigarette tax of $1.29.