TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: Senate Bill Would Keep Feds Out
A "bipartisan group of 25 senators" Wednesday introduced a bill that would block the federal government from taking a slice of the states' $206 billion tobacco settlement pie. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), who co-authored the legislation with Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), said, "These settlements belong to the states. Because of the possible threat of federal seizure, many states, including Texas, are unable to plan and to spend the money for the benefit of their citizens." President Clinton's budget counts on $18.9 billion in tobacco revenue from the states' settlement over five years. The Hutchison-Graham bill would not only prevent the federal government from receiving direct payments from the tobacco companies, but would also prevent it "from cutting Medicaid payments to states as a way of recouping federal Medicaid payments made earlier for treating smokers' ailments." Graham said, "The federal government never offered states any help when they were pursuing cases against the tobacco industry. It shouldn't look for a free ride from the states." But White House domestic policy adviser Bruce Reed noted that on average, 57% of the money states will receive are "for costs assumed by the federal government" (Holland, Reuters/Nando Times, 2/4). Reed said the White House will not support the Hutchinson-Graham bill because it lacks a "commitment by the states to use these monies to prevent youth smoking, protect tobacco farmers, improve public health or assist children." He added, "The administration will work with the states and Congress to enact tobacco legislation that resolves the federal claim to settlement funds in exchange for a commitment by the states to use the federal share to support" these priorities (CongressDaily/A.M., 2/4).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.