TARGET 8 fact checks ad supporting Amendment 3

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COLUMBIA — KOMU 8’s Target 8 team looked into claims Vote Yes on 3 for Kids supporters made in one of their most popular advertisements.

Target 8 researched each claim supporters made about the ballot measure, Constitutional Amendment 3, in their ad titled “It’s Time,” to see whether it was true, false or incomplete.

If the voters pass Amendment 3, there would be a 15 cent tax increase on a pack of 20 cigarettes over four years starting on January 1, 2017 until it totals 60 cents in 2020. Cigarette wholesalers would also pay a fee of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes, and that fee would increase annually.

All of the money generated would go into the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund.

The team reached out to both the opposition and supporters to ask for their responses to the claims and our findings.

“Investing in education will improve the economy.” – TRUE

According to a study done by the University of Pennsylvania, early childhood programs promote healthy development and could lead to savings.

The study stated, “Because high quality early childhood programs promote healthy development, they can generate savings by obviating the need for more expensive interventions later in a child’s life. For example, studies show that participation in high-quality early care can help children avoid special education, grade repetition, early parenthood, and incarceration – all outcomes that imply large costs for government and for society. Furthermore, children (over the long term) and parents who participate in such programs are more likely to be employed; thus revenue from their taxes and enhanced buying power can positively contribute to the economy.”

“Raising graduation rates.” – TRUE

According to a report from the office of the president, studies show children who had access to early childhood education, were more likely to graduate in the future.

The report stated, “Participants had higher high school graduation and college attendance rates, as well as more years of schooling. These achievement gains translated in to large earnings gains as participants entered the labor force.”

“Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation.” – TRUE

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Missouri has a 17-cent tax on cigarettes, which is the lowest according to its list.

“You don’t smoke, you don’t pay.” – TRUE

According to the ballot wording, Amendment 3 will only affect those who buy cigarettes and cigarette wholesalers that would have to pay a fee.

The ballot language states, “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20 and create a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes, which fee shall increase annually.”

Ron Leone, the Executive Director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said he opposes Amendment 3 entirely.

In regards to this claim Leone said, “The money generated by Amendment 3 is not nearly enough to cover a right to early childhood education. So somebody is going to be paying that tab, that difference, and as you know, smoking is going down which means the revenues associated with Amendment 3 are going to be going down.”

But there is nothing in the amendment that says taxpayers will have to “pay the tab” to make up for money not generated by the taxes and fees.

A member of Raise Your Hand for Kids, James Harris, who supports the amendment said, “This is only if you smoke will you pay, with a modest increase in the cigarette tax.”

“Politicians can’t touch any of the money.” – TRUE

Section 54(a).I. of Amendment 3 states, “Any moneys credited to and deposited in the fund shall be used only for purposes which are authorized by this section, shall not be diverted to any other purpose and shall not be subject to the provisions of section 33.080, or other similar law.”

This means the money is not allowed to be placed in the general state treasury and cannot be appropriated by the general assembly.

In regards to this claim Leone said, “We have in the past 20 to 30 years, have seen broken lock box funding promises with respect to the casino money and the lottery money. The reason those promises were broken was there is no such thing as a lock box. The money that would be generated by Amendment 3, assuming it passes, it goes through Jefferson City, it goes through the appropriations process. Which means there are hundreds of bureaucrats, 197 state representatives and state senators and one governor, have multiple opportunities to delay the money, to decrease the money or to divert the money.”

Harris said, “We think it’s very clear that the politicians cannot divert the money. And we learned from the gaming and lottery stuff, where the money just went into general appropriations or general revenue and was later diverted. So we’ve put some of those safeguards in.”

That safeguard is mentioned in this sentence of the amendment: the money, “shall not be subject to the provisions of section 33.080, or other similar law.”

Section 33.080 states, “All fees, funds and moneys from whatsoever source…. be placed in the state treasury to the credit of the particular purpose or fund for which collected, and shall be subject to appropriation by the general assembly for the particular purpose or fund for which collected during the biennium in which collected and appropriated.”

This law means other funds have to go through the appropriation process, but the funds generated by the Amendment 3 tax and fees do not go through that process and are completely separate.