Wisconsin Gov. McCallum's Budget… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Wisconsin Gov. McCallum's Budget Threatens Funding for State's Tobacco Prevention Program

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 22, 2002

Washington, DC — The budget proposed today by Governor Scott McCallum shortchanges Wisconsin's kids and taxpayers by threatening funding for the state's tobacco prevention program just as it is getting off the drawing board. Wisconsin's tobacco prevention program is supposed to be funded with the state's tobacco settlement proceeds. However, Governor McCallum proposed spending the lion's share of settlement payments for the next 25 years to fill a budget gap for just one budget cycle. This plan will leave little or no money for tobacco prevention.

Wisconsin is now in danger of short-changing future generations by spending all of its tobacco settlement proceeds to fix its current budget woes. We hope Wisconsin lawmakers won't let the current budget crisis deter them from protecting the state's kids from the harms of tobacco. It would be more than a lost opportunity; it would be a tragedy for Wisconsin to abandon its commitment to save lives and taxpayers' dollars through its tobacco settlement.

Governor McCallum's proposal is penny-wise and pound-foolish and would make Wisconsin a national example of shortsighted spending practices. We have conclusive evidence from states that have implemented tobacco prevention programs that these programs not only reduce smoking and save lives, but also save taxpayers millions of dollars by reducing smoking-caused health care costs, which total $1.4 billion a year in Wisconsin. States are saving as much as $3 in smoking-caused health care costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention. We urge Governor McCallum to think beyond the next election and keep the promise to the kids and taxpayers of Wisconsin by using the tobacco settlement dollars wisely and adequately funding tobacco prevention programs.

If this plan is enacted, Wisconsin's budget deficit may be closed this year, but the health and financial tolls of tobacco will continue, as will the long-term budget imbalances that created this year's shortfall. This would have a devastating impact on the 15,500 Wisconsin kids who start smoking every year.

The state tobacco settlement provided Wisconsin with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reduce tobacco's toll on our health, especially the epidemic of youth smoking. While Wisconsin has taken steps toward realizing this opportunity, the $15.5 million it currently spends on tobacco prevention still falls short of the minimum $31.6 million a year that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the state spend on tobacco prevention. In our recent report on the subject, Wisconsin was ranked 20th in the country for its spending on tobacco prevention, falling from 13th the previous year. Wisconsin will pay a high price if it follows Gov. McCallum's budget and fails to use its tobacco settlement dollars for tobacco prevention. More kids will become addicted to tobacco, more lives will be lost and taxpayers will pay more to treat smoking-caused disease.