TOBACCO: Most States Will Spend Settlement on Health Care
Forty-one states are planning to spend portions of their tobacco settlement on improving health care, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Although more than half of the states with pending health-related bills are considering spending hikes for long term and home health care, there are also many small-scale proposals, such as a South Carolina proposal to screen young children for hearing loss. Under the 1998 settlement, 46 states will divide $206 billion over the next 25 years, while Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas will split $40 billion under separate settlements.
Sharing the Wealth
Because settlement funds come with no spending requirements, some states are looking to spread the windfall to other areas. For instance, seven states would increase spending on K-12 education and four would fund college tuition relief programs, while 10 southern states would use the spoils to assist tobacco growers and their communities. Anti-smoking initiatives for children would be funded in 44 states. The Wall Street Journal notes that the tobacco funds have offered valuable leverage in spending disputes between governors and legislatures. In Texas and Mississippi, for example, Democratic legislators have been able to expand CHIP eligibility beyond initial proposals by the states' Republican governors. One health care advocate, however, cautioned that many of the projects made possible by tobacco funds could be vulnerable to cuts if the economy falters (Murray, 3/8).