Orange County Supervisors Vote to Evenly Divide Tobacco Settlement Funds
The Orange County Board of Supervisors yesterday voted unanimously to split this year's $28.4 million tobacco settlement money evenly between health care and bankruptcy debt, the Los Angeles Times reports. After a week of "tense negotiations" between county officials, the board and health care leaders, the supervisors decided to drop plans to use a majority of the money to pay down the county's $950 million debt. Two weeks ago, board members Chuck Smith, Cynthia Coad and Jim Silva wanted to "reconsider the settlement funding formula" to put more money into debt reduction. But in a "last minute" offer, health care leaders pledged to use $1 million from their share of the funds to help build a water quality laboratory that the county "sorely needs." The offer will reduce the funds allocated for "emergency medical services and on call physicians." The promise of the water lab, combined with emotional pleas from local church congregations, led the five supervisors to forego plans to cut health care funding and to approve the original even-split proposal. The approved deal includes provisions for mobile health vans to serve the county's "motel children and ... elderly." Next year, however, the county's tobacco settlement money will be distributed according to the provisions of voter-approved ballot initiative Measure H. Under Measure H, 80% of future funds will be allocated for health care, with the remainder earmarked for public safety efforts. Although Measure H is slated to take effect in July 2001, the Board of Supervisors recently voted 3-2 to file suit "test[ing] the constitutionality" of the plan (Reyes, Los Angeles Times, 12/6).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.