The Kansas City Star reports:
The Committee for a Healthy Future, the group promoting the ballot initiative to increase cigarette taxes by 80 cents a pack, has hired John Hancock, a spokesman and consultant for the Missouri Republican Party, as a strategist. Hancock was constantly at the side of Blunt, a Republican, during his 2004 campaign for governor.
The campaign also has hired two other Republicans as consultants: Jewell Patek, a former lawmaker who later served as an aide to Blunt when he was secretary of state, and David Barklage, who served as chief of staff to former state Sen. Peter Kinder, now lieutenant governor.
Blunt’s spokesmen have been saying since June that the governor is opposed to increasing the cigarette tax or any other tax, even though lawmakers are struggling to find long-term solutions to address health-care needs for the poor and uninsured.
Jack Cardetti, Missouri Democratic Party spokesman, said the involvement of top Republicans in the tax initiative campaign brings into question whether Blunt truly opposes the idea.
“If Matt Blunt really wanted to kill this proposal, he could make three phone calls and it’d be dead within the month,” Cardetti said.
Blunt’s spokesman, Spence Jackson, said the governor has nothing to do with the contracts Hancock and other Republican consultants take.
“Reasonable people often disagree on issues,” Jackson said. “This is obviously an area of disagreement.”
•What would Spence Jackson know about reasonable people? He works for Matt Blunt, arguably the most unreasonable governor in recent Missouri history. For starters, just ask, oh, the 90,000 people kicked off Medicaid, courtesy of Blunt and his GOP-led General Assembly.
•Missouri's fag tax is 17 cents a pack -- the second-lowest such tax in the country. An 80-cent jump might seem excessive, but if it helps cut down on the number of smokers, great. (Disclosure note: CHATTER typists are firmly addicted to nicotine.)
•Nothing like a fag tax to create strange bedfellows. Steve Glorioso, a well-known Missouri political animal and Democrat, is between the sheets with John Hancock, the epitome of the Missouri GOP.
•Blunt's stubborn, unrealistic stance will bolster other Republicans contemplating a challenge to Blunt in the 2008 primary. Our sources say Rep. Ken Hulshof, a former death-penalty prosecutor (and current GOP congressman from central Missouri), wants to be governor. The more Blunt screws up, the better the race looks to Hulshof.
The cig tax would raise $351 million a year, according to The Star, "with $61 million of that going to anti-smoking programs, $100 million to treatment of chronic diseases and smoking-related illnesses among the poor and $190 million to increase Medicaid fees to health-care providers."
Place your bets now, ladies and gents. When will Boy Blunt capitulate and accept the cigarette tax?