Monday, October 22, 2001

Taft seeks tobacco cash for bailout

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Faced with a ballooning budget deficit, Gov. Bob Taft has proposed borrowing $100 million of the state's share of the national tobacco settlement.

        His proposal has disappointed state anti-smoking advocates, who saw in Mr. Taft a strong voice for using the money on health-related programs.

        Governors and lawmakers around the country have been turning to the tobacco money, part of a $206 billion national settlement in 1998, as the economy worsens and budget deficits grow.

        At least four other states have used the money in the past year to balance their budgets, and more are considering such a move.

        “The current budget crunch that a lot of states are facing threatens to undermine all of the progress that's been made in funding effective programs to reduce tobacco use among children,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

        “In the long run, diverting tobacco prevention money from the critically important goal of reducing the number of kids who start will be bad public health policy and bad for the state's treasury because of the cost of tobacco-related diseases,” he said.

        Mr. Myers said his group recognizes the pressure states are under. He also praised Mr. Taft for resisting “the more draconian step” of taking the tobacco money without promise of repayment.


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