State budgets scarf up tobacco payments

Monday, April 8, 2002

Spending taxpayers' money not only corrupts bureaucrats who have the authority to spend (see editorial above), it also affects elected officials whose tasks include balancing state budgets. As a result, billions of dollars in anticipated tobacco-settlement payments are being sold off to plug holes in state budgets, which is a far cry from the noble-sounding refrains that were sung so loudly when 46 states targeted the deep pockets of Big Tobacco.

While Missouri's governor has proposed using tobacco payments already received to shore up the state budget this year, other states are taking some or even all of anticipated tobacco payments over the next 25 years in a lump sum to be repaid with the tobacco money as it trickles in. Thus, Wisconsin is looking at a plan to raise $1.3 billion this year to be paid off over the next 25 years with all of the $5.9 billion the state expects to get from the tobacco settlement.

Of course, if the states had stuck to plans to use a big chunk of the money for anti-smoking campaigns, there probably would have been less money to fritter away on other programs. And guess what is one of the most popular ways to increase taxes this year? A big bump on tobacco products.

Welcome to State Budgeting 101.

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