Davis Plan To Use Tobacco Settlement Funds To Balance Budget ‘Shortsighted,’ Chronicle Says
It would be "shortsighted" for Gov. Gray Davis (D) and the state Legislature to redirect tobacco settlement funds and money generated by cigarette taxes to "help balance the budget," according to a San Francisco Chronicle editorial. Davis' budget plan would use $20 million in tobacco settlement funds and $26 million in Proposition 99 funds, as well as a $4.5 billion loan against future tobacco settlement funds. The plan also proposes a 63-cent per-pack tax on cigarettes. None of the new revenue would be used for prevention, health care or other smoking-related issues. The Chronicle writes that Davis' plan would "severely impair tobacco-control efforts" currently underway and would preclude the state from saving money "in the long run," as studies indicate that each dollar spent on smoking prevention saves $3 in future health care costs. The editorial concludes, "Lawmakers should note that, since 1994, the teenage smoking rate has been nearly cut in half to 5.9%. One of the biggest factors has been the type of anti-smoking campaigns now dying for funds" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/3).
In response to the Chronicle editorial, Department of Health Services Director Diane Bonta writes in a Chronicle that California is already "well entrenched" in its fight against youth smoking and that its "achievements will not be reversed" by Davis' "belt-tightening" plan. According to Bonta, the 63-cent per-pack increase in the tobacco tax will "drive" the current youth smoking rate "even lower," and the revenue provided by the tax will "more than offset" the money the state would lose through Davis' proposal. In addition, Davis' plan would prevent $4.5 billion in health care cuts to next year's budget, Bonta writes. The state also will continue to spend almost $90 million on tobacco prevention, education and cessation efforts in the next fiscal year -- "far more than any other state currently spends," Bonta notes. Bonta concludes, "Davis has proposed ... a credible, workable, realistic plan to balance the budget. The tobacco tax increase is a valuable part of this budget solution, one that will also give a significant boost to California's anti-smoking campaign" (Bonta, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.