TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: Cities, Counties Say Money Will Go For Health Programs
While state attorneys general debate whether to accept the $206 billion settlement with the tobacco industry (see related story), "California's cash-hungry cities and counties all but embraced" the tentative settlement. The Los Angeles Times reports that under the deal, California could stand to get $25 billion over the next 25 years, with half the money going to the state and the other half to counties and the four largest cities -- Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco. In announcing the deal yesterday, outgoing state Attorney General Dan Lungren (R) said he hoped the money would be spent on "health programs to benefit young people." While the "settlement imposes no strings on how the money must be spent," most city and county officials indicated they would direct the money toward health programs, including funding for teen anti-smoking programs, public hospitals and child health care, according to the Times.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the money "should not go to paving streets and trimming trees," but toward providing health coverage for uninsured children. He said, "If we were smart about how we spent it, we could make a difference in health care." The county would receive $3.15 billion over the 25-year span, an average of $126 million a year. The county spends about $2.2 billion a year on health care, and $300 million of that is spent treating sick smokers, according to county CEO David Janssen. In San Diego County, which could see $865 million annually if the deal is approved, Supervisor Greg Cox "predicted that the money probably would go for anti-smoking advertising, classroom instruction and health clinics that treat smoking- related ailments" (Morain, 11/17). San Diego Mayor Susan Golding (R) said the money "would allow us to further fund programs and projects that impact the health and education of our children and families." The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Cox said the money could also be used to "reimburse hospitals, such as the UCSD Medical Center, which provides emergency care to indigent patients" (Gembrowski, 11/17). In Ventura County, supervisors say their potential $233 million "should be spent on health care, including anti-smoking programs." Judy Mikels, chair of the board of supervisors, said "the lion's share should go to the health care system, since the lawsuit was based on health" issues. Supervisor Kathy Long agreed, saying, "Clearly it's going to have to go directly to our health care programs and the patients we see in our county hospitals and clinics." However, Long said before allocating the money she would like to see how revenue from Proposition 10 would benefit the county (Johnson, Los Angeles Times, 11/17). Click here for past coverage of the tobacco settlement.