ORANGE COUNTY: Board Considers Health Spending Compromise
The Orange County Board of Supervisors today will consider a compromise plan on county health expenditures that would support a fall ballot initiative guaranteeing a minimum level of future spending on health care. Supervisors Cynthia Coad and Todd Spitzer struck the deal with area health groups in exchange for the organizations' promise to stop pushing a ballot measure that would require the county to spend 80% of the tobacco settlement funds on health services. Although negotiators did not say what the annual spending minimum would be, they noted that the agreement would "dictate to future boards how general funds would be spent." But board Chair Charles Smith said the plan is "unacceptable and probably illegal," and even Coad remained "leery" of the plan to mandate future general fund spending. Spitzer argued, however, that the compromise would allow the board to follow through with its original plan to use the tobacco monies to add jail beds and pay down county debt. Currently, the county's annual health budget totals $32 million. Supervisors planned to spend only $7 million of the $30 million - $38 million tobacco settlement on health care, an idea that drew fire from health advocates (Reed, Orange County Register, 5/9).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.