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Supreme Court Hears Tobacco Tax Challenge

By Kelley Weiss

Kansas City, MO – The Supreme Court will hear an appeal today from opponents who want to keep a proposed tobacco tax off the November ballot. KCUR's Kelley Weiss reports.

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Missourians Against Tax Abuse will argue that supporters did not follow state rules in collecting petition signatures to put the question on this fall's ballot. Initially the proposal was rejected because it lacked enough signatures. But a circuit court judge ordered the tax on the ballot after election officials recounted signatures and found there were enough.

Marc Ellinger, the opponent's attorney, will argue before the Missouri Supreme Court that many of the signatures did not meet statute requirements - like having correct addresses or being completely filled out.

Marc Ellinger: "Really is what we're asking for is for the court to say if the statute says you're supposed to do it then you're supposed to do it."

Cindy Erickson, a spokesperson for the tax supporters, says it's not surprising the opponents, backed by tobacco interests, are appealing.

Cindy Erickson: "This is a predictable tactic that big tobacco takes in trying to confuse people and to keep this issue off the ballot."

The tax would increase the states 17-cents-a-pack cigarette tax to 97-cents and the more than $350 million in estimated yearly revenues would fund health care and anti-smoking programs.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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