Pennsylvania Gov. Ridge Opens National Conference on Tobacco Settlement Governor Describes PA`s Approach
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge today opened a National Governors' Association conference here on how states best can use the more than $200 billion in proceeds from the recent national tobacco settlement. Gov. Ridge urged the delegates to learn from each oth
"We developed five broad principles to guide our deliberations as we set about creating our plan for that money," said Gov. Ridge. "Not every idea has to meet every principle, but all ideas must meet the first -- to make Pennsylvanians healthier. That is our highest priority. Since we reached this settlement as a result of a product that has profoundly hurt the health of millions of Pennsylvanians, it seems only fitting that the money from the settlement be spent on improving the health of Pennsylvanians."
In addition to using the money to make Pennsylvanians healthier, the Ridge Administration's principles to guide the use of tobacco settlement dollars are:
-- to direct the proceeds to programs and initiatives that
can be easily adjusted to correspond to the likely fluctuation in
the tobacco payments;
-- to set aside a portion of the funds so that future generations of
Pennsylvanians can benefit from the settlement;
-- to focus on fulfilling or enhancing state government's existing
areas of service before creating new ones; and
-- to focus on initiatives that do not require the significant growth
or expansion of government bureaucracies.
"When our work is done, we hope to put in place a plan that truly will make the most effective use of these funds," Gov. Ridge said. "A plan that will benefit all Pennsylvanians. A plan that will help us make sure that we leave a legacy of better health -- that we and our children will benefit from this investment 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and 30 years from now and beyond."
Gov. Ridge opened the meeting of the National Governors' Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices, under the theme, "The National Tobacco Settlement: Making the Money Count." NGA convened the conference to give states information they need to make critical decisions on how to best use their portion of the national tobacco settlement.
Conference participants were able to discuss the details of the tobacco settlement; the most effective smoking cessation and prevention programs; how to budget for their payments; and how to use their money most effectively. Gov. Ridge was joined at the event by Secretary of Health Robert Zimmerman and Dr. Robert Muscalus, Physician General.
This summer, the Ridge Administration led five public information sessions, in each region of Pennsylvania, to give individuals and organizations an opportunity to comment on the state's allocation of future tobacco dollars. The Commonwealth now is convening focus groups to encourage targeted discussions on Pennsylvania's development of a tobacco allocation plan.
A national tobacco settlement agreement between the leading tobacco companies and a large number of states concluded in November 1998 and resulted in an allocation of $206 billion to be paid out to participating states over the next 25 years. Pennsylvania's share of the settlement amounts to $11.3 billion.