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County May Sue State To Retain Tobacco-Tax Money


Aired 5/12/11

San Diego County is considering suing the state to prevent a take-away of tobacco-tax money that funds early childhood programs. The county's First 5 Commission stands to lose more than $88 million.

— San Diego County is considering suing the state to prevent a take-away of tobacco tax money that funds early childhood programs. Some of these programs offer hearing and vision screenings for children up to age 5, and dental services to kids and pregnant women.

The county's First 5 Commission stands to lose more than 88-million dollars.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a law to help plug California's budget gap. It requires all First 5 commissions to send half of their revenues back to the state.

As a result, San Diego's commission says it has to cut spending on health and learning programs that benefit young children.

County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price chairs the local commission. She said all of the money should be spent on what it was intended for.

"This was never intended to provide money for state programs," Slater-Price said. "This was not supposed to come in and back-fill existing programs that the state put in place."

A number of other counties have filed suit to prevent the state from taking the money. Slater-Price said San Diego may take similar action.

Over the last five years, San Diego's First 5 Commission has spent nearly $250 million on efforts to improve the health of young children.

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Avatar for user 'Ruben'

Ruben | May 12, 2011 at 12:53 p.m. ― 5 years, 10 months ago

First 5 already gave them $133 million to pay for these or similar services last year, so there is a clear precedent for the move of funds and hence these reductions.

But here's what every voter should know about the First 5 system: Unlike EVERY OTHER organization in CA, First 5 has a legal exception to the conflict of interest law - that means people sitting on their Commission Boards can and generally DO receive the lion's share of the funds (Oh yes they DO!!!). That's why they are suing. It's not to preserve what they claim the voters intended, it's to preserve their own personal pet programs.

"Karen Scott, executive director of First 5 San Bernardino, said her commission has no litigation plans." Why?... perhaps this quote from another Executive Director is why: From Contra Costa's February minutes: " Sean Casey: We don’t have any real argument against it which is why we’re really stressing the other piece. Sure, take the money..."

So add to that Rob Reiner, the originator of Prop 10, supports the $1 billion move - if he thought it were illegal, he'd be up in arms (and he is not) so why sue since the law allows the move?

Well, suing means the commissioners get to spend as much OF THE TAXPAYERS' money as they want to try to save funds for mainly THEIR OWN agencies.

This IS what happens when you write into a law that the foxes can guard and eat from the hen house - and the Prop 10 law does just that.

At least the state is not willing to let poor kids DIE.

On the other hand, at those First 5's who have joined the lawsuit, the Commissioners are fighting to do just that.

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