Governor Doyle Puts Wisconsin’s Kids… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Governor Doyle Puts Wisconsin’s Kids First by Restoring Funding For Tobacco Prevention

Statement by Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 12, 2003

Washington, D.C. — Despite facing difficult budget choices, Governor Jim Doyle has put the health of Wisconsin's kids first by protecting his state's commitment to tobacco prevention. We applaud Governor Doyle for reversing his previous position to cut $2 million from the Wisconsin Tobacco Control Board. We also strongly support his plan to free-up tobacco settlement money to fund tobacco prevention in the future by promising to buy back some of the state's future settlement payments that were securitized last year. Governor Doyle's proposal would undo some of the damage caused by Wisconsin's securitization of all its future tobacco settlement funds and allow the state to use at least some of its tobacco settlement money for tobacco prevention.

We urge the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee to approve Governor Doyle's plan to tap $2 million in unused interest from the Tobacco Control Fund instead of making devastating cuts to tobacco prevention when it considers this on Thursday. We also urge Governor Doyle and the Legislature to maintain at a minimum future funding for tobacco prevention at the current level of $15.5 million. They should also work to increase funding to the minimum amount of $31.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increasing the state cigarette tax by 85 cents is the most effective way of raising the revenue needed to fund tobacco prevention and meet other budgetary needs.

Dating back to when he was Wisconsin's Attorney General and worked with the nation's Attorneys General on the tobacco settlement, Governor Doyle has been a leader in protecting kids from tobacco addiction, disease and death. We applaud him for finding creative solutions to ensure continued funding for tobacco prevention. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is one of the smartest and most fiscally responsible investments Wisconsin can make. If Wisconsin continues to fund tobacco prevention, the state can look forward to reducing smoking among both kids and adults, saving lives and saving money for taxpayers by reducing smoking-caused health care costs, which total $1.58 billion a year in Wisconsin. The best tobacco prevention programs are saving up to $3 in healthcare costs for every dollar spent on prevention.

Wisconsin's comprehensive tobacco control and prevention program has been highly successful and has reduced tobacco's toll on the state. Since the program's inception, smoking among middle-school students has dropped by 28 percent and smoking among high-school students has dropped by 18 percent. In 2002 alone, there was a five percent reduction in tobacco consumption. But tobacco's toll in Wisconsin is still too high: 27.1 percent of high school students currently smoke, and 15,900 more kids become regular, daily smokers every year, one-third of whom will die prematurely.

The Wisconsin Tobacco Control Board's tobacco prevention program has succeeded despite the fact its funding has been cut from $21.2 million in FY2001 to $15.5 million in FY2002-03. In addition, last year the state securitized, or sold to investors, more than $5.9 billion in anticipated settlement payments for an immediate lump sum payment of just $1.6 billion, all of which was used to partially address a single budget shortfall. From the start, Governor Doyle rightly recognized that selling off the settlement payments would squander a once in a lifetime opportunity to fund measures that would profoundly affect the health of Wisconsin's kids. His proposal to buy back a portion of the bonds the state sold off last year to generate $2 million annually for tobacco prevention programs would help restore the promise of the tobacco settlement.