TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: Factions Across State War Over Use of Funds
Health, business and labor groups opposed to a Los Angeles County plan to spend tobacco settlement funds on bankruptcy debt "are circulating a letter calling on the Board of Supervisors to abandon the idea." The county released a plan this week that would place its share -- $912 million over 25 years -- into security for a bond issue to be used to pay bankruptcy debt, build a jail and a juvenile hall, and fund other projects. After County Executive Officer Jan Mittermeier endorsed the plan, the supervisors expressed their support as well. But the coalition, comprised of "advocates for a wide variety of health interests," wants to place the money in a trust fund and protect it for "existing health programs and services." Bruce Vancil, cancer control director of the Orange County region of the American Cancer Society, said, "We are very disappointed to hear that the board is considering this. ... They forget what the (tobacco settlement) money was raised for." The Los Angeles Times notes that the skirmish mirrors one in Sacramento, where doctors, health care and business groups, along with some Democrats, are trying to prevent Gov. Davis from putting the state's $12.5 billion settlement share into he state's general fund (Warren, 6/4).
At Odds over S.D. Library
Anti-smoking advocates and supporters of a new library are wrestling over San Diego City's $312 million take from Big Tobacco. The city council voted earlier this year to earmark it "as backup financing for construction of a new main library downtown." But anti-tobacco groups want to see the money used on health and smoking prevention and cessation programs. Bob Doyle, American Lung Association community outreach director, said the city must put up a defense against the millions tobacco companies spend each year on advertising. "They will not stop targeting kids; they cannot exist without kids," he said. The advocates also want to enforce existing laws against smoking in bars, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Huard, 6/4).
Mercury News Weighs in for Health
An editorial in yesterday's San Jose Mercury News says the tobacco settlement windfall is "not like an unexpected bump in tax revenue that gives the Legislature some room at breathing time. It's a special case. It was intended to compensate the government for the cost of health care. It should be used to pay for health care" (6/3).