On the ballot in a week and a half is Amendment 3, which would raise the tobacco tax by 60 cents on Missourians.
While proponents of the measure claim that all the money earned from the tax increase will go directly into early childhood education, detractors are less certain. State Representative and Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick pointed this out to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
But Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, Missouri’s House budget chair, recently reminded proponents of the tax hike on Twitter that the legislature still has some discretion over the money.
He pointed toward language in the constitution that says “no money shall be withdrawn from the state treasury except by warrant drawn in accordance with an appropriation made by law.”
— Scott Fitzpatrick (@FitzpatrickMO) October 25, 2016
He also compared the early childhood fund the amendment creates to the Missouri Conservation Commission, which has a dedicated tax stream – the legislature can’t spend the money on anything else, but they have the discretion whether or not to appropriate the money at all.
“We have declined to appropriate money for things they request,” said Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob.
His argument makes it clear that there are no assurances about where this money will go once it is given to state government. Instead of raising taxes on Missourians, Jefferson City should reprioritize the budget and make sure that early childhood education is funded, while cutting out handouts to special interests and existing waste.