We received this guest post from Rep. Chris Kelly. It addresses the funding question related to Proposition B in the upcoming election. While MSTA has not taken a position on Proposition B, we wanted to share with you information to help our members and advocates make an informed decision. If you have additional questions about the funding for Proposition B or Proposition B in general, please contact Rep. Kelly's office at 573-289-4067.
Proposition B: The Right Thing to Do for Missouri’s Children
Missouri voters will soon decide whether to increase Missouri's tobacco tax from 17 cents a pack (lowest in the nation) to 90 cents––an increase that would still place us nineteenth lowest in the nation. Fifty percent of the revenue will go to public elementary and secondary schools, 30 percent to higher education, and 20 percent for smoking cessation and healthcare programs. I sponsored a similar bill in the legislature and am a strong supporter of the tobacco tax increase, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as Proposition B.
Proposition B provides an opportunity to achieve several important results:
- Smoking will decrease
- Fewer Missouri young people will begin to smoke;
- Fewer Missourians will die from smoking-related diseases;
- Missouri will see lower Medicare and healthcare costs; and
estimated $283 million increase in revenue will go to our most pressing needs:
$162 million new dollars for public Elementary and Secondary education;
$85 million for our public institutions of Higher Education; and
$56 million for smoking cessation and healthcare.
Criticisms of Proposition B abound––from threatened loss of businesses and jobs, to loss of state revenue from those purchasing tobacco products across state lines, to unfairly targeting smokers. These are desperate claims without merit. One criticism of Proposition B invoked by the tobacco lobby deserves further analysis. That is, whether the additional revenue generated for education would simply offset the general revenue (GR) that would have gone to education, resulting in no effective increase in overall educational funding. You may have heard ads referring to the likelihood of money going in the "front door" and out the "back door"––a criticism that has often been levied against lottery funds. In budget parlance, this is called "supplanting"––where money is used from one source to take the place of money from another source. Supplanting would mean that no net addition of funds to education or healthcare would result.
The legal restrictions outlined in Proposition B and the protection given to education in the Missouri Constitution undercut this criticism. Nonetheless, I want to address this issue as fairly and as accurately as I can.
Supplanting can take several forms:
- Direct supplantation would occur if Prop B funds were placed into the General Revenue Fund, rather than into the Health and Education Trust Fund as mandated by law. This form of supplantation is neither legally possible nor politically plausible. By law, money placed into the special Health and Education Trust Fund can only be used for the three purposes set out in the law––Elementary and Secondary Education, Higher Education, and Smoking Cession/Healthcare. The language specifically says that any balances in the Trust Fund "shall not revert to the general revenue fund."
supplantation refers to supplanting in its most common form, a situation in
which the legislature would reduce the amount of money now going into the
General Fund for education by some amount because of the increases coming from
Prop B—the so-called "back door" approach. The plain language of
Proposition B prevents this form of supplanting. For the Legislature to do this
would be illegal.
Such supplanting of funds is also not politically feasible. First, education enjoys a Missouri constitutional preference in that, after public debt, education must receive priority funding. Second, the natural inclination of legislators is to fund education at the highest possible level, given revenue constraints. The political forces one would have to confront to reduce the amount of General Revenue currently going to education would be overwhelming. Even a suggestion of the taking of current GR from schools would result in a firestorm of opposition to legislators both from within and beyond their own party, inviting electoral disaster. Third, the amendment requires that the state auditor shall perform an annual audit of the fund, including "an evaluation of whether appropriations for tobacco-related programs and elementary, secondary, and higher education have increased." The state auditor is obligated to make copies of each audit available.
- Supplanting through erosion––It is technically possible that, in future years some amount of General Revenue that would have gone to Higher Education, for example, might instead be used to deal with other state issues––the dismal conditions of the Veterans' Homes, overtime compensation for prison guards, or nurses for disabled children who are wards of the state. It is impossible to quantify or know with certainty what the increase in GR funding to education would have been, absent the addition of Prop B funds. There is simply no reasonable way to determine what future funding might have been. We do not know if another Joplin-type storm will occur, or whether we will suffer another significant economic downturn, or if we will lose an expensive roof at a state hospital that requires state funds. We do know that education has the most effective advocates in the Capitol and that in any budgetary prioritization education is likely to prevail.
Having served on the Missouri House of Representatives Budget Committee for 14 years, with two terms as Chairman, I understand the process of state budgeting. Without the naiveté of youthful exuberance and with the experience of having seen how budgets are formed, I know that passing Proposition B will result in significant new revenue to healthcare and to education at all levels, and that neither direct nor indirect supplanting will occur. Education will continue to receive both the statutory and popular lion’s share of general revenue. The protections against supplanting as written into the amendment are intentionally as strong as could have been made and, unlike previous legislation involving lottery or gambling revenues, include language to prevent supplanting to the legal extent possible.
I am positive that the vast majority of my colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, join me in that resolve. Should supplanting occur against all our efforts, Missouri voters will know and can take the next electoral opportunity to take decisive action against the legislators responsible. There is no perfect safeguard, but there is also no question that Prop B will result in significantly more revenue for education at every level, as well as for smoking cessation and healthcare.
During my 35 years in public life I have found that the best policy is to tell people the truth and trust them to do the right thing. Ultimately, the voters will decide, as it should be, but before you cast your vote, please weigh the enormous benefits that Prop B brings to the state against the criticisms levied by those paid to promote their cause. I believe there is no legitimate reason to reject Prop B.
Proposition B is the right thing to do for Missouri's children. Please vote "YES" on Nov. 6.