JAN. 21, 1999 ... TH ... All state funding from the multi-state
tobacco settlement - estimated at $7.6 billion over the next 25 years - should be used to
expand health care programs for children, the elderly and the poor, Gov. Paul Cellucci
Cellucci's vow pleased many in the health care community. However,
tobacco-control groups assailed his refusal to expand the state's anti-smoking campaign.
"Cigarette companies have made billions of dollars at the
expense of the public's health," Cellucci said. "It's time that tobacco funds go
toward saving lives."
With a smile, Cellucci pointed to a placard explaining how other
state officials plan to spend the money. The Louisiana governor wants to use the funds to
pay off state debts, while the mayor of Los Angeles wants to use some money to make
sidewalks handicap accessible, Cellucci said.
In the next 17 months, the state expects $361 million to flow into
the fund. Initially, Cellucci said, he hopes the tobacco money will fund:
A $132 million expansion of a program that provides health
insurance to families;
A $20 million investment to help seniors pay for prescription
A $20 million expansion of home care and elderly housing programs;
A $10 million expansion of HIV/AIDS patient programs;
A $13.6 million expansion of a program that provides services to
mentally retarded adults;
A $5 million initiative to help the state maximize federal
A $500,000 study to determine how the state Department of Public
Health can best optimize tobacco funds for smoking prevention programs.
Health and Human Services Secretary William O'Leary urged legislators
to fall in line behind the plan. Cellucci plans to file the proposal as legislation with
his budget next week.
"We need the legislature to follow the lead of the
governor," O'Leary said. "The key issue is that all the money's got to go to
Cellucci said the fund would reserve money each year to stave off
unexpected revenue drops or to repay the federal government's expected claim to half the
money. Some federal officials say the US government deserves half of money because federal
funds helped poor sick smokers.
In December of 1995, Massachusetts became the fifth state to sue
tobacco companies to recover health-related spending. The state estimates it spends about
$200 million annually on health care costs related to tobacco illnesses.
After an initial payment of $361 million, the tobacco industry will
pay Massachusetts between $250 million and $350 million per year under the settlement.
Cellucci said taking the tobacco money out of the general fund and
putting it into a special "Cellucci-Swift Health Care and Community Services Trust
Fund" would prevent legislators from spending the money on projects unrelated to
health care. He said the plan wouldn't free up money for tax cuts because it calls for new
spending, not transfer between accounts.
"This settlement was never meant to be a goody-bag for a
spending free-for-all," Cellucci said. "This funds expansions of existing
But some health care advocates criticized Cellucci's plan because it
only allocates $500,000 for anti-smoking efforts - and that money will fund a study of
existing programs. Cellucci said the state already spends $90 million a year to fight
smoking, and said he thinks the programs could be more effective.
Jennifer Mansfield of the American Heart Association of New England
said Massachusetts' anti-smoking efforts are a national model. "We're the state other
states look to when they're trying to get money to fight smoking," Mansfield said.
Lori Fresina of the American Cancer Society added, "We're doing
better than every other state."
Fresina said the smoking rate in Massachusetts has decreased 30
percent in recent years, four times better than the national average. Fresina also said
the state spends only $30 million on tobacco control, not the $90 million Cellucci said.
Rep. Harriette Chandler, House chairwoman of the Health Care
Committee for the 1997-1998 legislative session, likes Cellucci's plan. Chandler expects
to be re-appointed as chairwoman by Speaker Thomas Finneran. She said she filed a similar
bill for the coming session.
"I'm delighted that (the governor) feels the tobacco funds
should go to health care. This shouldn't have anything to do with taxes. It's wonderful
that he understands there's a difference between this money and cutting taxes," said
Chandler said tobacco-control advocates were "rightfully"
angry over the lack of new anti-smoking funding. "For years, they've been very
concerned about doing programs encouraging people not to smoke," she said. "To
only allot only $500,000 for a study, it's kind of a slap. It's probably not meant to be a
slap, but that's the way it's received."
New Senate Health Care Committee chairman Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge)
agreed with Chandler's assessment. He said he thought the state should spend more money on
smoking-prevention programs than Cellucci was proposing.
"(Cellucci's) headed in the right direction," Moore said.
"I think it's a mistake by other states to use the money for capital projects. It
seems appropriate that we utilize that money for various health-related matters.