Wednesday, May 07, 2008

See what happens when you get in the way of government spending?

State legislators have voted to dismantle the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation, and Gov. Ted Strickland is expected to sign the bill. This isn't about reducing the size of government, though. This is payback for daring to challenge the State on how the monies would be spent.

Never mind that the state was supposed to use tobacco settlement funds for future medical costs...

Never mind that government really can't stimulate the economy by spending more...

Now that the agency doesn't exist, it can't sue the legislature. As reported in today's Blade,

"Once the agency ceases to exist, it will have a difficult time being able to sue us,'' Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati) said shortly before the Senate voted 29-3 to kill the quasigovernmental body. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last week.

I'm not in favor of the agency continuing, but that's because I didn't think it should have been created in the first place. My issue was with the original lawsuit and the settlement agreement. However, as a result of that suit and settlement, this agency was created and many of the legislators voting to dismantle it are also the same ones who voted to create it in the first place.

I also question why Ohio needs to spend $40 million every year in tobacco prevention education. We have laws about the sale of tobacco to minors which means that only adults should be using the product - and they're capable of making up their own mind about their actions. Even when minors illegally engage in such activity, there are laws to address it - and parents, too.

There is no doubt that smoking causes health problems - and every package contains various warnings about how bad it is for you. I really don't think there is anyone in the country who doesn't acknowledge this fact, even if they know of one or two people who've suffered no ill effects from this habit.

Further, the $40 million per year obviously isn't having an impact on the number of smokers if, according to the CDC, the percentage of smokers in Ohio has actually increased from 22.3% in 2005 to 23.1% in 2007.

Of course, this battle with the OTPF isn't about the purpose of the funds, it's about the umbrage state elected officials took at one of their creations challenging them on how to spend the funds.

"The wellness of the people of Ohio is a jobs issue, an economic issue. They are not separate,'' said Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R., Cuyahoga Falls), one of the three negative votes. He argued that the state had reneged on the commitment it made to Ohioans to use part of its national settlement with tobacco companies to fight smoking.

Sen. Jeff Jacobson (R., Vandalia), however, challenged Mr. Coughlin's suggestion that a government bureaucracy will not be able to fight smoking better than the quasigovernmental foundation.

"If I had hundreds of millions to spend, I could manage to spend some of that money effectively…,'' he said. "The money still belonged to the people. They treated it callously as their own property."

Um...isn't that what state legislators are doing ... treating our tax dollars and these settlement funds as their own property to be spent as they want, regardless of the promises made???

The lesson here is bigger than the use of the monies. Had our Republicans in Columbus actually stood by their (supposed) limited-government principles, we never would have entered the lawsuit, or created the agency. And we would then be spared from having the discussion of how government was going to spend all the money it has at its disposal. Starve the beast, because if you don't, it will spend everything it can.

1 comment:

Tim Higgins said...

Don't they call this the "Godfather Solution"?

Well the way is now clear for the state to spend the last of their tobacco settlement money, and by my reckoning, not one dollar will have been spent on medical care. As you point out Maggie, this was the original reason for which the lawsuit was brought, and the settlement was to be used for what was supposed to be increased smoking related health costs that were going to spiral out of control. Hmmm ...

I guess we are goint to have to rewrite that old saying:

Never get between a politician and a microphone, or a pile of someone else's money.

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