State Tobacco Money: Advocates question its proposed use for Detroit

State Tobacco Money: Advocates question its proposed use for Detroit

The $350 million Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed as part of a Detroit deal would come from what’s known as tobacco settlement money — a fund that, according to The Detroit News, some anti-smoking groups, public health advocates and others are saying should be used to pay for health improvements throughout the state.

Organizations ranging from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids to the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy don’t necessarily oppose strategies to assist the bankrupt city, but argue Michigan should be spending a sizable portion of the settlement money to combat the harmful effects of smoking.

Snyder wants legislators to approve 20 annual $17.5 million payments to Detroit starting in the next budget, with the agreement the city would use the funds to shore up pension accounts and to protect the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts from being sold. Private foundations have committed $365 million to the deal while the museum has promised $100 million.

It will be a tough sell in Lansing, most likely, especially to out-state lawmakers, and now the Detroit News reports the opposition from the public health advocates. The opponents of using the tobacco fund money tell the News that the settlement funds were supposed to be paid to “reimburse the state and its taxpayers for the costly diseases caused by tobacco use.”

“We’re not opposed to fixing Detroit’s economic problems, but we feel a reasonable percentage of the (tobacco settlement) money should be used to help people quit smoking,” said Peter Hamm, spokesman for the national Tobacco-Free Kids group.

Snyder has said he hopes for legislative approval before summer to ensure the funds are part of Detroit’s Plan of Adjustment during its ongoing Chapter 9 proceedings. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has scheduled a trial for July.