According to a report by the Center for Tobacco Free Kids, New Hampshire spends none of its tobacco settlement money on smoking prevention.
‘New Hampshire’s failure to spend even a penny of the millions of dollars it receives annually from the tobacco settlement to protect its kids would be criminal if this was a private company,’ said Matthew Myers, the campaign’s president. ‘When New Hampshire sued the tobacco companies, it said it was doing so to protect its kids.’
Like many, many bad ideas, the tobacco lawsuit was pursued “for the children”. When pressed about why the settlement monies aren’t going to help the children, the Legislature finance chairman, State Senator Dick Green said:
“The vast majority of the funds we receive from the tobacco settlement go into the general fund and go to other purposes,” he said.
The campaign’s report also said the state stands to collect a record $135.4 million this year from all tobacco-related revenue. Green couldn’t confirm the figure was correct, but said the revenue would be “in that ballpark.”
He said the state had prevention programs ready should funding become available. But he said they likely wouldn’t become a priority in future budget cycles, when shortfalls could reach roughly $300 million.
“It’s not the way it should be,” Green said. “But as a practical matter, the state has a very difficult problem balancing its budget.”
So what’s wrong with all of this? Nothing, really. Settlements are made to compensate the plaintiffs in lawsuits. It’s well known that plaintiffs are not very good at spending settlement or judgment monies on the harm that they are being compensated for, hence the popularity of structured settlements. The real problem here is that people assumed that the government, given a large stream of revenue without any legal restrictions on how it must be spent, would behave any different than any other plaintiff.