The Tobacco Settlement
Last week, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell joined the parade of states settling their lawsuits with the tobacco industry in exchange for billions of dollars. The deal will give the Green Mountain State at least $30 million a year for the next 25 years.
According to Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, the Vermont coordinator for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Sorrell made the right choice. In her opinion: "We really can't do better than this."
Perhaps, if one assumes the money will be directed toward its intended purpose.
But a critic of the deal, Bob Uerz, of the American Lung Association of Vermont, expressed concern that the Legislature might be tempted to spend the windfall on other projects. Democratic Governor Howard Dean insists, however, that: "We'll be asking the Legislature to set up a special fund. The money will have to be used for anti-smoking education and health care." Chittenden Republican Senator Helen Riehle agrees with the idea of a trust fund for the settlement money "so it is clearly earmarked for tobacco-health related issues."
We're being asked to believe the legislators will set up a fund they can't raid - like the Transportation Fund - every time they want to spend the money on something else. We will believe it - when we see it.