for tobacco payout looms
would settle for $800 million, use 10% to fix budget
The battle line was drawn Thursday over Gov. Bill Owens' proposal
to balance next year's budget with tobacco money.
Owens, believing it risky to rely on future payments, wants to
settle for an $800 million payoff, using $80 million to fix the
budget and the rest for a "rainy day" fund.
But Thursday, Colorado Sen. Dave Owen, R-Greeley, the vice-chair
of the Joint Budget Committee, said he doesn't think the governor's
payoff proposal has enough support in the legislature to pass.
Colorado receives, on average, about $100 million a year from
tobacco payments, which should last roughly another 21 years. The
payments stem from the settlement of class-action lawsuits filed by
states against tobacco companies over smoking-related health
Thursday, anti-smoking and health advocates including the
grandson of the founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. appealed to
legislators to scrap Gov. Owens' plan for a lump-sum payoff.
Members of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance
argued that Gov. Owens' plan will eliminate funding to a
smoking-cessation plan run by the state health department.
"These (smoking-cessation) programs have had spectacular
results," said Patrick Reynolds, who chose to work full time against
smoking after watching his father die of lung disease.
Sen. Owen said that if the governor's plan passes, he doesn't
believe programs funded by the tobacco money would die.
"They won't go away. They'll find a way to be funded out of the
$800 million, which will be spent faster than anyone thinks," he
The cessation program this year received only $3.8 million, about
half of what was paid out in fiscal year 2001-02.
Gov. Owens on Tuesday told the budget committee that all programs
funded by tobacco money, including smoking-cessation programs, would
be phased out within three years.
But Thursday, Owens changed his tune and said the
smoking-cessation program would receive $13.5 million next year.
However, no decision about its funding has been made beyond next
year, he said.
In addition to using $80 million of the payout to help balance
next year's budget, Owens has proposed putting the remaining $720
million into a "rainy day" fund for emergencies. Members of the JBC
said they doubted that fund would last more than a few years before