SAN DIEGO COUNTY: Supervisors Aim to Restrict Tobacco Funds
Two San Diego County supervisors are moving to restrict the use of the county's $945 million windfall from the national tobacco settlement to health-related programs. Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts hope to funnel the installments -- beginning in June 2000 and continuing through 2025 -- to programs that address smoking-related illnesses and efforts to "improv[e] the health of children and families in the region." The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the five-member Board of Supervisors will convene Tuesday to hear the proposal, marking the first "time any member of the board has proposed formal, public talks about the fiscal windfall." Roberts said, "I firmly believe that these dollars should target health care, the original intent of the lawsuit. People have literally died for this money." County health chief Robert Ross was on board, but added that the proposal will spur intense debate over the use of the funds. He said, "I think this will get the health leaders in the same boat, going in the same direction, maybe fussing and fighting while they are in the same boat, but at least going in the same direction." Ross has his own ideas for the spending, suggesting that there are "gaping holes in things like mental health and drug treatment that I'd love to see dollars address. It's all fair game. Let's put it on the table and talk about it."
The Union-Tribune reports that city officials outlined plans this week to allocate the first five years of settlement funding for expanding child care programs and enforcing anti-tobacco laws. The move was applauded by the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. Based on an earlier proposal put forth by San Diego Mayor Susan Golding (R), however, the city also intends to use some of the money as a backup fund for a new main library branch downtown, drawing the ire of the three health groups (Kucher, 2/12). Click here for recent CHL coverage of San Diego's tobacco windfall.