Campaign donation limits, tobacco taxes on Missouri ballot

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri voters will be able to weigh in on proposed cigarette tax hikes and campaign contribution limits during the November election, Secretary of State Jason Kander announced Tuesday.

Kander's office determined those measures and another to prohibit sales taxes on services that weren't taxed as of 2015 received enough valid signatures to get on the Nov. 8 ballot. A medical marijuana initiative did not.

The constitutional amendment aimed at cutting down on money in Missouri politics would re-impose caps on campaign donations, which now are unlimited and have allowed donors to give five- and six-figure-checks to candidates.

The measure would limit contributions to $2,600 to candidates per election and a maximum of $25,000 to political parties. Fred Sauer, the founder of Orion Investment Co. in St. Louis, financed the ballot initiative.

Kander's office said two different cigarette tax hikes received enough signatures to get on the ballot.

One would phase in a 23-cent-per-pack increase to raise money for transportation infrastructure projects. The increase would be in addition to the current 17-cents-per-pack tax and seeks to raise the tax on other tobacco products by 5 percent in 2017.

It's being financed through the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association political action committee and tobacco companies.

A higher cigarette tax increase of 60 cents per pack would primarily go to benefit early childhood education programs. The ballot initiative has been bankrolled largely by cigarette giant Reynolds American Inc., because it could end a price advantage for smaller companies.

Kander's office certified the initiative despite a Missouri appeals court ruling in July that the initiative's summary was insufficient and unfair because it failed to say that one of the measure's new fees could rise annually with inflation.

The proposal to prohibit sales taxes on additional services also was certified for the ballot. The proposal is a pre-emptive measure aimed at blocking the potential for future taxes on such things as real estate agent services. Funding for the initiative came from the Missouri Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

Backers of medical marijuana still are trying to get a constitutional change on the ballot to permit its use for medical purposes after failing to get enough validated signatures. New Approach Missouri campaign spokesman Jack Cardetti said Monday that the initiative fell about 2,200 signatures short in a congressional district that covers the St. Louis area after local election authorities invalidated about 10,700 signatures.

Cardetti said the campaign will go to court in an attempt to overturn some of the invalidated signatures.

The proposal would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and impose a 4 percent sales tax on medical marijuana sales. The state would set up a licensing program with fees.

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