Anti-Smoking Activists Feel Shortchanged
As Illinois property owners have begun receiving tax rebates for as little as $1, funded by the state's tobacco settlement, some politicians and health-care advocates on Tuesday revived their call to allocate more of the tobacco money toward anti-smoking
"At least 50 percent of this should be going to smoking prevention and treatment-related programs," state Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) said of the state's $9.1 billion share of the national tobacco settlement.
Fritchey and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), who co-chaired the special House committee that reviewed the tobacco money issue, joined health-care and community activists at a news conference Tuesday to urge the state to allocate more of the money for smoking-cessation and health programs.
Last year Fritchey and Feigenholtz co-authored a bill, which passed the House but died in the Senate, that would have used the tobacco money to create six trust funds for anti-smoking and health-care efforts. Fritchey said the bill will be revived in January.
The state used more than half of the first $685 million of the tobacco settlement in the current budget year to fund one-time property tax rebates, more than 45,000 of which have amounted to less than $10 each. Meanwhile, $27.5 million was allocated for smoking-related programs in the current budget year, Feigenholtz said.
Wanda Taylor, a spokeswoman for Gov. George Ryan, said the state increased funding by $128 million for health care programs in the current budget. She said Fritchey, Feigenholtz and other critics shouldn't focus on where the money comes from, but on the fact that the programs are funded.
"Does it matter where the money comes from, or that the money does come?" Taylor said.
Dr. Quentin D. Young, chairman of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, an organization that focuses on public health care policy and the poor, urged property owners to donate their rebates to a public health organization.