The Ohio Supreme Court began hearing arguments, July 6, as to whether the Ohio Court of Appeals of Franklin County, Tenth Appellate District was correct in reversing a lower court’s order permanently enjoining the State from dissolving the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Endowment Fund. Funds were used by the Governor and the Ohio General Assembly to help balance the last biennial budget but have been escrowed until the Supreme Court decides the issue. If the Supreme Court rules against the state, the decision will leave another $230 million hole in the state budget.
The suit has pitted anti-smoking advocates aligned with the Legacy Foundation against the State of Ohio and allied health care providers who provide optional services under Medicaid. The Governor allocated funds from the tobacco foundation to cover these services. The OOA declined to become a party to amicus briefs on either side, feeling it was a no-win situation.
"This is a difficult issue that has been caused by the on-going state budget crisis," said OOA Executive Director Jon Wills. We certainly would like to see this money support tobacco prevention programs, but on the other hand we don't want to see Medicaid patients go without dental, optometic, and similar health care services."
Legacy Foundation lawyers have been arguing that the fund, established in 2000 as part of Ohio's $10.6 billion share of a settlement with cigarette companies, could not be diverted for other purposes. A ruling is expected within several months.