CHA Proposed Ballot Initiative Would Draw Money From Children’s Health Programs, Reiner Says
Film director Rob Reiner on Friday asked the California Hospital Association to withdraw or rewrite a ballot proposal that would increase the tobacco tax in part to help fund emergency and trauma services, saying it will draw money away from programs including First 5 California, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports.
CHA has proposed increasing the tobacco tax by $1.50 per-pack to raise an estimated $1.4 billion annually to fund emergency departments and other health programs.
Reiner -- a supporter of the First 5 ballot initiative in 1998, which increased the tobacco tax by 50 cents -- wrote in a letter to CHA President C. Duane Dauner that he will "actively and aggressively oppose" raising the tax if the proposed ballot initiative "remains in its current form." Reiner estimates that First 5 programs would lose $34 million annually if the measure is passed.
According to the AP/Mercury News, cigarette sales would decline if the tax is raised. The hospital proposal would compensate First 5 programs with $70 million annually to offset expected losses, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office. However, analysts estimate that First 5 programs could still lose as much as $20 million annually because of lower cigarette sales.
CHA spokesperson Kris Deutschman said the group would discuss the issues with Reiner, but has to "move forward with the priority of keeping emergency rooms open" (Blood, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 11/19).