Statement of Attorney General Tom Miller on Use of Money for Education Purposes from the "Endowment for Iowa's Health"
Statement of Attorney General Miller:
The Legislature and the Governor have agreed to "securitize" the revenue to be received by Iowa from the tobacco industry under the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). I have supported and I continue to support securitization for several reasons. One key factor is that the securitization plan has been designed to build an "Endowment for Iowa's Health" that would provide a continued, stable source of money for tobacco-use prevention and control, health care, substance abuse treatment and enforcement, and other purposes.
Now, the Legislature has approved legislation that would appropriate $40 million from the Endowment to be used to improve Iowa's education system, and Legislative leaders have pledged to replenish the Endowment with $40 million within the next two years.
I strongly believe that Iowa's education system -- especially teacher salaries -- must be improved. I also understand the severe budgetary challenges we face in addressing the needs of education and other priorities. However, I urge that discipline be exercised in repaying the $40 million to the Endowment as soon as possible.
In times of tight budgets, there will be repeated temptations to use money intended for the Endowment for purposes, including important purposes, that are unrelated to health. Unless fiscal restraint is invoked, the Endowment will not grow as planned and vital health programs will be shortchanged in years to come.
As the months and years go on, decision makers should not forget that the payments under the MSA were derived from a lawsuit based on the damage inflicted on Iowa by tobacco. Every year, 5,000 Iowans die from tobacco-related disease, and 12,000 Iowa youths begin smoking. It would be a tragedy if tobacco prevention and control efforts and other health care needs were inadequately funded in future years because money was "borrowed" from the Endowment for other purposes and not repaid in a timely manner.
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