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Published: Tuesday, 4/8/2008

Ohio House votes to take control of tobacco prevention funds

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS The Ohio House Tuesday threw the latest punch in the fight over the state s tobacco prevention funds.

With Gov. Ted Strickland waiting to sign the emergency measure into law, the House voted 89-5 to immediately take control of $230 million in the trust overseen by Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation. The Senate was expected to follow suit.

The fund was created with proceeds from the state s multi-billion dollar settlement with major tobacco companies in 2000, and lawmakers and governors have been siphoning off the money ever since.

Last week, Mr. Strickland and Republican legislative leaders stunned the foundation s board when they announced plans to take all but the last $40 million still in the foundation s coffers to help pay for a $1.57 billion economic stimulus package. The package would invest in everything from roads and bridges to medical and energy research.

The foundation s board responded Friday by voting to transfer $190 million of its funds to three non-profit organizations out of the reach of the state.

But the foundation did not immediately make the transfer, which left the General Assembly and Mr. Strickland time to thwart its plans with passage of today s emergency law.

The $40 million that would be left in the foundation s trust is less than its annual budget for its programs, including its high-profile "stand" anti-tobacco marketing campaign targeting youth.

"They left us no choice but to act on this," said House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering).

While state law placed the funds under the foundation s control, State Treasurer Richard Cordray serves as custodian of the funds.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or (614) 221-0496.



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