JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Last week, Raise Your Hand for Kids (RYH4K) reported a $1 million donation from RAI Service Company of Winston-Salen, N.C., the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
RYH4K is a 501(c)(4) organization that serves as the fundraising and advocacy arm of the Alliance for Childhood Education, a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of business leaders committed to improving the education systems in Kansas and Missouri.
The group’s latest initiative petition (2016-152), which is currently open for public comment, puts an additional fee, called an “equity assessment,” on tobacco wholesale and increases tax on all cigarettes by 60 cents per pack. The proposal does not increase taxes on other tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, which are a growing in market share.
“Our campaign is in the early stages of planning, preparation and filing of an initiative to provide much-needed resources for early childhood education and other related issues,” said Executive Director Linda Rallo. “Raise Your Hand for Kids expects to attract support from a wide variety of interests who understand the importance of early childhood education and the significant underfunding of it in the state of Missouri. We’re willing to work with all parties – including tobacco companies – who are interested in a constitutional amendment that helps Missouri kids by addressing early childhood education and smoking cessation, with strong accountability provisions in place. We’re thrilled to see the large number of people and organizations who have expressed interest in working with us. It’s encouraging for us to see so many Missourians who are passionate about this cause. In fact, we have received more individual donations to date than the 2012 tobacco tax initiative had during its entire campaign.”
Circulators could begin gathering signatures for the above initiative petition in late January. The constitutional amendment may come head-to-head with an initiative petition sponsored by the Missouri Petroleum Markets and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) to enact a smaller tax increase on all cigarettes and other tobacco products to fund transportation projects around the state.
“Big Tobacco’s outrageous and unfair tax increase is an unholy alliance that profits Big Tobacco, profits a special interest group, hurts small businesses, hurts consumers and creates an underfunded welfare program that will leave all taxpayers on the hook forever,” said MPCA Executive Director Ron Leone. “MPCA’s fair and reasonable but still substantial tax increase benefits everyone by helping to fix Missouri’s unsafe roads and bridges.”
R.J. Reynolds manufactures Camel, Doral, Newport, and other tobacco products.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.