By John W. Croft and Chris Frates
ANNAPOLIS – With legislators haggling for a piece of the state’s $4 billion tobacco settlement, Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s proposal is bound to be attacked, but he said Thursday that its foundation is simply not negotiable.
“I will not permit (the money) to be diffused to 50 different subject areas and do nothing really well,” Glendening said in an interview with Capital News Service. “What we’re doing is putting down deep roots.”
Under his proposal, the $150 million installment for 2001 will be split among several priorities: $50 million for anti-smoking education; $50 million for cancer research programs; $30 million for smoking cessation; and $20 million to encourage tobacco growers to farm alternative crops.
Legislators have proposed alternative uses for the funding, but Glendening said that cancer and anti-smoking education are non-negotiable and must be funded next year.
“I’ll fight for it as submitted,” he said.
Yet, he said he is willing to work with a bill introduced last week by Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery.
Van Hollen’s measure incorporates the governor’s spending priorities and creates an organization in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to carry out the work.
Last week, the GOP Caucus condemned the governor’s plan as lofty, nebulous and failing to include the state’s seniors.
“The governor and his staff are making it up as they go,” House Minority Whip Robert Flanagan said last week. “It’s shocking, the lack of specificity.”
Flanagan, R-Howard, said his party’s plan would put money back into programs like Medicaid, which are being drained by smoking-related illnesses. It also would start a long-term health insurance trust fund, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, decrease the price of medical day care and hospice services and offer tax credits for insurance premiums.
Glendening scoffed at the Republican notion that cancer research is not an appropriate use of the money, which will bring about $1 billion over 10 years.
“The Republican proposal to not fund cancer research is just obscene,” Glendening said.
Next year, he said, 24,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 10,000 will die. Every year 7,500 people in Maryland die from tobacco related illnesses. Maryland has the seventh highest cancer rate in the country. “If we can make a dent in that,” he said, “we’re really doing something.” -30- CNS-3-9-00