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Archive for Tuesday, December 14, 1999

PLAN FOR TABACCO MONEY FALLS SHORT, GROUP SAYS

December 14, 1999

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The Kansas Children's Cabinet recommends only $2.5 million for anti-tobacco programs next year.

Anti-smoking activists are upset about a recommendation to spend only $2.5 million in tobacco settlement money next year for programs to curb tobacco use.

"That's somewhere between putting money down a rathole and unrealistic expectations," Shelby Smith, lobbyist for the Tobacco Free Coalition, said Monday about the recommendation from the Kansas Children's Cabinet.

The cabinet, an advisory panel, met last week to recommend how the state should spend $30 million of tobacco money in fiscal year 2001, which begins July 1.

Panel members said they did their best given the limited time they had to develop a plan, the growing competition for the funds, and the need to set up a long-range planning process for how to spend the money expected to come in future years as Kansas' share of the national settlement.

"I would say these recommendations are very pragmatic," said Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius, a member of the Children's Cabinet. "We see this as kind of a building year to set up the infrastructure" for making decisions about future funding.

The $2.5 million for an anti-smoking campaign next year includes $500,000 allocated for this fiscal year but never spent.

State law requires that money from the tobacco settlement be used to fund programs that improve the health, safety and welfare of children.

Though none of the money has been received yet, the 1999 Legislature appropriated $20 million for fiscal year 2000, and $30 million for fiscal year 2001, essentially "borrowing" the dollars from the state general fund until the first settlement payment is received.

The Kansas Children's Cabinet was created to recommend how the money should be spent, but the final decision rests with the Legislature and governor.

The Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition had urged the panel to recommend slightly more than $5 million next year to launch a coordinated statewide campaign to curb tobacco use.

Smith said the advocacy group's plan was modeled on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

"It certainly doesn't come close to the minimum $18 million that the CDC recommends for a state the size of Kansas," Smith said.

Sebelius said the $2.5 million would be enough to begin developing a statewide anti-tobacco program while also providing some money to assess community needs.

-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is phancock@ljworld.com.

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