TOBACCO FUNDS: Coalition Pushes State to Invest in Health Care
Members of a statewide coalition that is petitioning to require state and local governments to spend all of the $25 billion from the tobacco lawsuit on health care expect to finalize a spending initiative this week and present it to the attorney general's office by Friday. The coalition will have to wait up to 60 days for the completion of the legal process before starting to collect the 419,261 signatures needed before April 21 to put the issue on the November 2000 ballot. The group, which includes members from the California Medical Association, California Nurses Association, California Healthcare Association, California Teachers Association, the California chapters of the heart, lung and cancer associations, the AARP and the California Council of Churches, was formed shortly after Gov. Gray Davis vetoed AB 100. The bill would have required California to spend its $25 billion share of the settlement entirely on health care. Moreover, the new initiative is fueled partially by several counties' decisions to spend at least a portion of the settlement on non-health care concerns. Orange County, for example, is using about 80% of the county's settlement to construct a jail and to settle debt. Steven Thompson, vice president of the California Medical Association, said that the initiative "is not only in the spirit of the [tobacco] settlement but consistent with how Californians think the money should be spent." Although coalition members have agreed that 100% of the state's settlement should be spent on health services, limitations on the types of program on which the county money can be spent has not been decided. State Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana), said, "We have started to consider certain language and would like to finalize relatively soon" (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 11/14).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.