AG Kane blasts panel's ruling that may trim funds for anti-smoking efforts
Three former federal judges erred when they told Big Tobacco companies to cut their annual payments to Pennsylvania public health programs, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane argued on Thursday.
An arbitration panel of William G. Bassler, Abner J. Mikva and Fern M. Smith ruled in September that several companies could reduce by 60 percent the money toward research and smoking-cessation programs. Since an initial settlement agreement with three top cigarette makers in 1998, companies have made annual payments to help pay tobacco users' medical costs and programs to help users quit.
The judges said payments could fall from $300 million to about $120 million.
Settlement participants Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. challenged whether the state collected money from sales of products made by competitors that didn't join the pact.
The settlement entitles participating companies to cut their payments if they lose market share.
“The arbitration panel's decision penalizes Pennsylvania for factors the panel clearly allowed for other states,” Kane said in a written statement announcing formal objections. “Whether the panel failed to follow a common set of standards or exhibited bias against the commonwealth, it was wrong and we cannot permit this unjust decision to stand.”
Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds representatives and the judges declined to comment, as did Lorillard spokesman.
Kane's motion filed this week in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas shows Pennsylvania's collection rate on tobacco products was identical to the rate in Ohio, which the arbitration panel didn't challenge.
Although the panel punished Pennsylvania for not taxing roll-your-own tobacco, it found that Oregon had no obligation to do the same.
If upheld, the funding cuts would start in April but immediately would freeze $25.6 million in refunds to hospitals for uninsured patients' care; $8.5 million in tobacco prevention and cessation programs; and discretionary spending for research grants, the state budget office reported.
The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement shields participating manufacturers against state lawsuits. Firms challenged 35 states over their 2003 compliance. Nineteen states, districts and territories finished a new, multi-year pact in 2012.
Fifteen states went forward with arbitration. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, said the appeal by Kane, a Democrat, is a waste of resources.
“I think it's just another indicator that this attorney general is all about politics, all about trying to make headlines for herself with little regard for contracts that were negotiated long before she came on the political scene,” he said.
Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Donetsk rattled by explosions; airport at risk
- Enterovirus D68 case confirmed in southwestern Pennsylvania
- Stocks slammed as manufacturing slows in U.S., abroad
- Connellsville Township VFD given $61,750 Homeland Security grant
- NFL notebook: Ravens receiver Smith Sr. says he was ‘stabbed in back’ by Panthers
- News Alert
- News Alert
- City wants Leon Ford’s federal lawsuit put on hold
- Nutting says Pirates may ‘stretch’ for Martin
- Jobs on state website include ‘private party dancing,’ ‘car dates’
- Fans flock to what they hope will continue ‘magical season’