“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood
I’m not one to get political here in this column. After all, the purpose of it is to have more joy. And I don’t usually associate politics with joy, especially during election season.
However, I cover school news here in Nodaway County, which does bring me a lot of joy, and I’ve been hearing a lot of information on Prop B at the school board meetings I cover. Specifically, how it will impact our local schools.
There are two sides to every story and I’m sure you’ve watched, read and heard both sides. The health and education people want you to vote yes for a variety of reasons. And the convenience store folks and those for no new taxes and smaller government want you to vote no for a variety of other reasons.
Here’s the issue…
The American Cancer Society brought the initiative forward to reduce smoking and improve healthcare in the state.
Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the US at 17¢ per pack, well below the national average of $1.49 per pack.
There are approximately 10,000 deaths each year in Missouri related to tobacco use. We also have the 11th highest smoking rate in the country and the eighth highest rate for lung cancer deaths. Additionally, more than 8,600 Missouri youth start smoking each year (Missouri Foundation for Health).
Prop B would increase the current cigarette tax to 90¢ a pack, the roll-your-own tobacco products by 25 percent and other tobacco products like chewing tobacco by 15 percent.
The Missouri State Auditor’s office estimates an increase in state revenues of $283 to $423 billion every year. It would also create the Health and Education Trust Fund, with 50 percent going to support public schools, 30 percent to higher education and 20 percent for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
According to the Missouri Association of School Administrators, here’s how some of our Nodaway County schools would benefit each year if Prop B is passed:
West Nodaway: $36,000 to 55,000
South Nodaway: $28,767 to $42,998
North Nodaway: $35,604 to $53,217
Nodaway-Holt: $35,500 to $53,100
Maryville: $221,508 to $331,087
Funds can be used in the following ways: teacher recruitment, retention, salaries or professional development; school construction, renovation or leasing; technology enhancements, textbooks or instructional materials; school safety; or supplying additional funding for required state and federal programs.
It has also been projected that Northwest Missouri State University could receive nearly $3 million each year.
Opponents have expressed concern about how this money will be used, citing the ineffectiveness of the casino revenue for education.
However, safeguards not used in the past have been put into place with the law requiring all money to be treated as new funding, not used to replace existing money spent on education. It will also be audited annually.
I have several concerns about the issue. I generally want less government, not more. I’m not one hundred percent sure the wording will help keep the funding going to where it’s supposed to go. And I don’t think the increased taxes will cause more smokers to give it up.
But I do have hope that educating our youth will be beneficial. And I also know that our schools are hurting and desperately need this additional funding.
So, whatever you decide about the issue, please get out there and exercise your right to vote.