County still eying tobacco funds
With only one El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting remaining in 2000, the fate of the Master Tobacco Settlement funds is in limbo.
With three new supervisors taking office, one of them being a registered nurse, Health Alliance officials hope to see more of the $47 million in tobacco money than the last board was willing to allocate.
“The Health Alliance is just sort of sitting tight at this point until we have a new (Board of Supervisors) to work with,” Health Alliance Executive Director P.J. LoDuca said. “I am optimistic that given the new configuration of the board that maybe we could have a conversation on how to use the tobacco money. But we’ll be waiting until after they take office in January to start that process.”
Helen Baumann, who has worked in health care for 27 years, will take District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting’s seat in January. Baumann campaigned as a strong advocate for the Health Alliance initiative.
“What the Health Alliance asked for was not outrageous,” Baumann said before the election. “If I am elected I will see if we can’t take care of that before 2002, (when the Health Alliance’s initiative is scheduled to go to the ballot). I am so committed to health care.”
Supervisor Dave Solaro said the board hasn’t talked about the future of the tobacco funds, waiting for Baumann, new District 3 Supervisor Carl Borelli and District 1 Supervisor Rusty Dupray to take office.
The tobacco funds are part of a 46-state, $206 billion settlement to cover costs states incurred from providing medical care related to tobacco usage.
The supervisors voted in July to use the money for a new justice center, which caused the Health Alliance to form and contest the board’s decision.
The alliance, made up of Marshall and Barton hospitals, and several other county clinics and doctors, contended that although the money comes from the state and is not earmarked for any certain use, the original intended use was for health care.
The alliance drafted an initiative and garnered more than 10,000 county resident signatures, but missed the filing deadline for the 2000 election. The Board of Supervisors studied the initiative for 30 days, which pushed it to the 2002 election.
The initiative proposed four years of tobacco revenues be placed in a special interest-bearing account to provide a revenue stream for health and tobacco control-related programs. The initiative set out 85 percent of the funds for health-related programs and 15 percent for the control of tobacco use.
Trying to stop the Builders’ Exchange Measure H that passed by a large margin in November, the board of supervisors voted to sue the Builders’ Exchange and the Health Alliance to keep their initiatives off the ballot.
Two judges ruled against the county in the Builders’ Exchange lawsuit and papers have yet to be filed against the Health Alliance, according to LoDuca.
“At this point the county has not taken any legal action against the initiative, which I guess is good,” she said. “We’re just sort of hanging tight until we have a new group to work with, and we’re optimistic that will benefit the entire community, when we can have a conversation about how best to meet the multiple needs that exist in the county with these tobacco funds.”
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