TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: Governors Unite Against Clinton
The nation's governors plan today to warn President Clinton to stop pushing for a share of the states' $206 billion tobacco settlement, after making clear yesterday that they will present a united, bipartisan front to safeguard the money. The National Governors' Association's high-stakes, two-hour summit will take place at the White House later today. The Los Angeles Times reports Clinton intends to hold "out the possibility of compromise," although his proposed budget "assumes that the federal government will receive more than $18 billion" over four years from the settlement. According to an anonymous White House official, negotiations will likely hinge on a waiver of the federal claim in exchange for a guarantee that the funds "will be spent on programs for public health, anti-smoking campaigns, child development and economic aid for tobacco farming regions," (Anderson, 2/22). The Washington Post reports that the federal government "wants to take up to 57%" of the settlement, based on federal Medicaid reimbursements. Legislation has been introduced by Sens. George Voinovich (R-OH) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) -- both former governors -- to forestall a federal claim to the funds (Broder/Balz, 2/22).
'Violent' to 'Polite'
Yesterday brought a flood of governor comments on the issue:
- Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) pointed to "a bipartisan agreement" among top state officials "that the state's windfall will be spent on health care," saying the money "needs to be kept at the state level" (Sher, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 2/22).
- New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) vowed she will "violently" oppose a federal money grab, saying, "[T]his is money that came through a suit brought by the states, not by the federal government. It should be up to the states how they spend the money."
- California Gov. Gray Davis (D) "said he would 'very politely' ask the president not to take any state proceeds" (Los Angeles Times, 2/22).
- Turning his back on funding of health care programs, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) said he will use settlement money to fund a university scholarship program for students with a B average or better (Coyne, Salt Lake Tribune, 2/22).