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Politics & Government

Lung Association Says Budget Funding Proposal Could Limit Programs

Mark Lennihan
Cigarette butts are discarded in an ashtray outside a New York office building, Friday, April 17, 2017.

Lawmakers are still struggling to reach consensus on how to pay for the state budget. One of the most likely ways they’ll get money to fill a more than $2 billion hole is by borrowing against a state fund created by a 1998 multi-state settlement with tobacco companies.

But the American Lung Association is up in arms against the proposal—saying it’ll probably divert vital resources away from state anti-smoking programs.

Nothing is definite yet, but House and Senate leaders and Governor Tom Wolf say they’re looking seriously at borrowing as much as $1.5 billion against future revenue from the Tobacco Settlement Fund.

The fund gets around $350 million every year. Twenty-five percent of that goes straight to the general fund, and the rest is earmarked for various health programs, including tobacco safety programs run by the American Lung Association.

Joy Meyer, with the Lung Association, said they originally got $46 million from the fund annually. These days more of the money goes to the general fund, so they’re down to $14 million.

Meyer said if the state borrows against the tobacco settlement, that money will dwindle even more.

“If we were to get less, we could not have the same infrastructure, and we would no longer have a comprehensive tobacco control program,” she said. “That would be staff loss; we would have job loss.”

Governor Tom Wolf said he would have concerns about program cuts. However, he said he doesn’t know how exactly the borrowing would work, or what impact it would have.