Anti-smoking effort gets small portion
The state expects to spend $30 million from its tobacco settlement on anti-smoking programs next year -- less than half of what anti-smoking advocates wanted.
The allocation is part of Governor Whitman's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. The governor will outline her spending plan in detail Monday in an address to state legislators. State officials gave a glimpse of the $21.3 billion budget proposal during a briefing Saturday.
"It's a sad commentary for New Jersey," said Larry Downs, executive director of New Jersey Breathes, a coalition of health groups, including the New Jersey Medical Society, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society. "We were certainly hoping to see more of a commitment from this administration."
Downs said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that New Jersey needed to spend at least $45 million annually to mount an effective tobacco control and prevention campaign. At one point, anti-smoking groups in New Jersey had lobbied for $76 million.
Other states are spending more money, Down said. For example, he said, Massachusetts will spend nearly $58 million on anti-smoking efforts next year.
"Here we are with a similar population and size and we wind up spending almost half," Downs said.
State Treasurer Roland Machold said New Jersey will receive $471 million from the historic, nationwide tobacco settlement during fiscal year 2001.
But he would only comment on how a fraction of the money will be used. In addition to the anti-smoking programs, Machold said the state will spend $10 million on a technology research program for colleges.
He said Whitman would provide details when she formally unveils her spending plan Monday.
But a source familiar with the budget proposal said that $50 million from the windfall will be used to bail out two failed HMO programs. An additional $70 million will be appropriated for a new subsidized health insurance program for uninsured working poor, known as FamilyCare.
About $11 million will be used this year for school construction, the source said. Whitman will commit to using up to $100 million annually from the settlement to build schools, the source added.
An elderly-care initiative will receive $25 million and a program for children will get $10 million.
Because of legal wrangling, New Jersey and five other states have not received any money from the settlement. But state officials Saturday said they expect to collect $93 million before the end of June.
That would be the first installment in payments that will continue for 25 years and amount to at least $7.5 billion.
Cigarette makers agreed to pay $206 billion to 46 states over a 25-year period as part of a settlement of the states' lawsuit to recoup the health costs of treating Medicaid patients with tobacco-related illnesses.