Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clearing Up Any Confusion on Tobacco Tax Initiative

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clearing Up Any Confusion on Tobacco Tax Initiative

Article excerpt

Raise Your Hand for Kids started more than two years ago with three people a child advocate, a tax policy expert and a mother (that's me) who wanted to end rampant illiteracy, reduce crime rates and create a stronger workforce for Missouri. We wrote a blueprint to turn an idea as simple as generating new investment in early childhood education into reality and crafted a step-by-step guide to bring the measure to the ballot for voters' consideration.

Our initiative adds 60 cents to the state's cigarette tax, a modest increase to what is currently the lowest in the nation. It generates $305 million annually and dedicates 75 percent to 85 percent of the amount for early childhood education, 15 percent to 20 percent for preventative health care for children birth through 5, and 5 percent to 10 percent for smoking cessation for pregnant mothers and teens. It also effectively repeals a special interest law that enables certain companies to unfairly profit from cheap cigarettes.

To develop the policy, we studied past tobacco tax attempts and tried to learn from their efforts. We conducted polls to gauge voter support. We met with stakeholders and held community conversations across the state from St. Louis and Kansas City to Poplar Bluff and Branson 12 cities in all. We conducted surveys, consulted research and reports and reached out to hundreds of parents, policy makers, educators and business leaders. We cultivated a supporter base comprised of children's agencies and early childhood advocates.

Our instincts turned out to be prescient. Months after our outreach commenced, the Ferguson Commission prescribed investments in early childhood education as one of its remedies to address the region's racial and socioeconomic ills.

The Post-Dispatch did a disservice to its readers this week when it published an editorial "Blowing smoke" (April 25). The editorial attempts to paint this initiative in a devious light, employing dark and vivid words such as "Trojan horse," "poison pill" and "hijack" in an attempt to discount our hard work, discredit our intentions and perpetuate falsehoods. …

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