Massachusetts: The following article provides more information on the Governor's FY'2000 budget request as it pertains to the tobacco settlement funds. This request will go to the legislature for action; the Governor is Republican, and the legislature heavily Democratic. Expect a fight over the budget as submitted, particularly over the lack of funds for tobacco control activities.

Tobacco money eyed for health fund;
Cellucci would not add to antismoking efforts

By Tina Cassidy, Boston Globe Staff, 01/22/99

If Governor Paul Cellucci gets his way, the state's $7.6 billion windfall from the national tobacco settlement will go toward a health care trust fund for children, senior citizens, and those with the AIDS virus, instead of being used for smoking prevention programs.

Cellucci made the surprise announcement during a State House news conference yesterday. The first of 25 installments from the settlement, about $98 million, is expected to arrive in March and had been expected to further fund the state's acclaimed antismoking programs.

Attorney General Scott Harshbarger sued the tobacco industry partly as way to help stop children from smoking.

Instead, Cellucci said, the money should be used to pay for those who already are sick or who have no medical coverage.

''We intend to build this fund up so that we can support these health programs for years to come,'' Cellucci said. ''This settlement was not intended to be a goody bag.''

While opponents of smoking said they were concerned Massachusetts will lose its standing as a national model for reducing smoking and criticized the governor for refusing to provide more antismoking funds, Cellucci said that at least he is spending the money on health care.

Other states involved in the settlement have earmarked the money for a variety of projects and programs, some having nothing to do with smoking or health care.

In Los Angeles, the mayor wants to use some of the settlement to fix sidewalks; Louisiana wants to pay off state debt; and Alabama wants to build boot camps for young offenders.

Antismoking advocates in Massachusetts were scratching their heads as to why Cellucci set aside no additional money for smoking prevention. Adding to their consternation, Cellucci is calling for a $500,000 study to determine the effectiveness of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program.

Greg Connolly, director of that program, could not be reached for comment. But other smoking foes, including the American Cancer Society, called Cellucci's proposal a slap.

''It's really shocking,'' said Richard Daynard, chairman of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University, a public health advocacy group that encourages lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Harshbarger, who joined Northeastern as a visiting professor yesterday, will work with that group.

''Here's a program which is arguably the leading program in the nation,'' Daynard said. ''We've turned around the rate of adult smoking and at least done better on kids smoking than the rest of the country, and the only money that [Cellucci put in] is the money to figure out why it isn't working. That's all very puzzling.''

By contrast, Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care, praised the proposed trust fund. ''This is exactly what we've been waiting for,'' Norman said, adding that the money could help between 2,000 and 4,000 elderly people cut off from Medicare to receive home care. ''It is some needed relief.''

Under Cellucci's plan, every cent of the $7.6 billion share of the national settlement that Massachusetts is expected to receive over the next 25 years would be placed in a trust fund to expand health care for children, the elderly, low-income people and those with HIV and AIDS.

With a pattern of spending and reinvesting over the next five years, the fund could swell to $600 million by 2004, according to the governor's office.

Over the next fiscal year, the tobacco industry has agreed to pay the state $361 million. After that, the payments should average $300 million annually. Without a trust fund set up to receive the payments, the money would otherwise be placed in the general fund.

Under Cellucci's proposal, which will be filed next week as part of his budget legislation, the settlement money would include funding for:

* A $132 million expansion of a program that provides health insurance to families.

* A $20 million investment to help seniors pay for prescription drugs.

* 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 reimbursements [through the efforts of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Executive Office of Health & Human Services].

* A $500,000 study to determine how the state Department of Public Health can best use money for smoking prevention programs.

There is one potential glitch in Cellucci's plan. The federal government may be entitled to about half of the settlement to reimburse Medicaid spending for smoking-related illnesses. Congress is expected to decide whether the states can keep all the proceeds in the next few months.

US Representative Martin T. Meehan, a Lowell Democrat who chairs the Congressional Task Forces on Tobacco and Health, said he believes states will be allowed to collect the entire settlement - under the condition that they set aside some of the funds for antismoking programs.

''The tobacco settlement,'' Meehan said, ''shouldn't go to build sidewalks and prisons.''

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 01/22/99.

Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.