On Wednesday, to celebrate National Manufacturing Day, the County Commissioners recognized Michael Deaton for his contributions to manufacturing in the area. I was surprised to learn how his father started the company after seeing the potential for trailer manufacturing in our area. I am always amazed at the stories of manufacturing and business entrepreneurs from our area. In most cases they overcame overwhelming odds to accomplish their goals. You have to wonder if they were just that much tougher than we are or did they just have the drive and ambition that kept them from quitting when things got rough.
Thursday morning we met at the High School in Anderson to kick off the SAFE program. SAFE stands for Seatbelts Are For Everyone and it is a proven program that is administered by the students and is proven to drastically reduce deaths and serious injuries in teen accidents. The best part is that it's fun for the kids and doesn't cost the school district or the taxpayers anything! I'll be providing more info as the program gets going.
There are a couple of things going on that may affect a lot of us in the upcoming session. The first concern is the 8 different petitions being circulated to increase the tobacco taxes. The petitions must be collected in 6 of the 8 Congressional districts and must contain at least 5% of the voters who cast ballots in the 2012 Governor's race. The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience store association is seeking a 23-cent increase to be applied to highways and bridges. They estimate that the tax would generate from 90 to 100 million by 2026 when it's fully implemented. Raise Your Hand For Kids is the other organization seeking petitions. Their proposals are to increase the tax by 50 cents per pack and give the money to an "Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund". Like everything, there are hidden agendas in everything. The Legislature is also looking at raising the Missouri tobacco tax from the lowest in the nation at 17 cents. By comparison, Oklahoma is $1.03, Arkansas is $1.15, and Kansas is $1.29. New York holds top place at $4.35! The Convenience Store folks are very aware of the competitive advantage they have over border states and the Education folks know that Missouri has one of the highest rates of smoking in the country and their ads will have a great impact. It has really developed into a great race to see who can get their hands on a sin tax increase first.
There's a showdown looming in Washington that has us in the picture also. Former Senator Jim Talent is working for the Ethanol interests trying to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard. The EPA is saying that due to changes in consumption and supplies of oil that the increasing amounts of ethanol are no longer necessary. They say there is an accumulation of evidence that ethanol is as, or more harmful than gasoline in terms of greenhouse emissions, land use, and chemical run off. The farm lobbyists, and biofuel industry naturally want the standards to at least remain the way they presently are. Missouri is the 10th largest producer of corn harvesting over 500 million bushels per year so it is certainly in their financial interest to help keep the standards. There are some tough decisions ahead and in all probability, Washington will find a way to push the final answers down to the states to decide.