Tobacco Money One Step Closer to Iowa
Miller says first $21 million of tobacco settlement funds is moving to control of State. The first $76.6 million will be available no later than next year -- part of $1.7 billion coming to Iowa. He says significant sums should go for tobacco enforcement and prevention.
Des Moines -- Attorney General Tom Miller said the $20.9 million first payment of Iowa's $1.7 billion share of the national tobacco settlement has been moved to a separate bank account where it is being held for the state pending finalization of legal issues in several other states. Miller said the money could be freed up for Iowa later this year, and no later than next June.
"We can't spend this first installment yet, but Iowa now controls how to invest the money while it is held in escrow," Miller said. "This reminds us that the arrival of millions of dollars is getting closer, and we need to begin determining how to spend it," he said.
"I strongly advocate that a significant portion of Iowa's share should be used for tobacco prevention and control," Miller said. "We need to reduce the number of young Iowans who become addicted to tobacco, and we must reduce the annual toll of 5,000 Iowans dying from tobacco-related disease."
Miller said that Iowa could see its first payment of $20.9 million as soon as two requirements are met by the group of 52 states and territories who settled their lawsuits. The first requirement is to acquire final court approval of the settlements in 80% of the states. Miller said that requirement has been met by approval in 42 states, including Iowa.
The second requirement is to acquire final approval in states representing 80% of the settlement payments. Miller said this process has been slowed because of the need to resolve legal issues in several large states. Signatures representing 54.1% of Medicaid payments have been obtained. Four large states have appeals pending (CA, NJ, PA, NY).
In any event, Miller said, Iowa will receive its first payment no later than June 30, 2000. That would include the first $20.9 million, if not paid already, plus $55.8 million due in early 2000, or a total of over $76 million.
Miller said the State Legislature must decide how to spend the money. He advocates spending a significant share of the funds in a comprehensive plan for tobacco prevention and control. Miller said a wide-ranging plan should include local programs to reduce tobacco use, education efforts through school-based programs and various media, and enforcement of laws to keep kids off tobacco.
Miller said The New York Times reports that nine states have comprehensive anti-smoking programs already, and other states have programs in the works.
"We don't want Iowa to remain tied for last place in creating programs to protect our kids from tobacco," Miller said.
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