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Big Tobacco Defeats Kids’ Health Care

From the professional unbiased reporter, Janie Har of The Oregonian:

Jerre Petersen pulls up the the ballot box near the Multnomah County Elections office Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007, in Portland, Ore.

Health plan gets burned after state’s costliest race

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


After the most expensive political campaign in Oregon history, voters Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a tobacco tax increase to pay for children’s health care.

The 3-to-2 vote against Measure 50, which would have increased Oregon’s cigarette tax by 85 cents a pack, follows similar defeats in California and Missouri after tobacco makers spent millions to oppose the measures.

In Oregon, Reynolds American and Philip Morris, the makers of Camel and Marlboro cigarettes, spent a record $12 million, primarily on a TV commercial blitz.

The decisive failure kicks a complex public health issue back to the Legislature and Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who have been unable to make health care more accessible for an estimated 576,000 Oregonians who lack insurance

Disappointed supporters, who were outspent 4-to-1, chalked up their loss to the tobacco money and vowed to continue working on health care.

“I think that this is just a battle in a long war,” said Gov. Ted Kulongoski before making a concession speech before 100 supporters at downtown Portland’s Benson Hotel.

Later in the evening, Kulongoski said: “The tobacco industry basically bought an election. I don’t think it’s a reflection of what Oregonians think about health care and children.”

In rejecting the tax, Oregonians broke with tradition. They approved cigarette tax increases in 1996 and 2002…

Opponents zeroed in on four basic arguments against the tax: There was no way to account for how the money would be spent; it was inappropriate to stick a product tax in the constitution; it was unfair to smokers; and the program was fiscally unsustainable as costs eventually would outstrip revenue.

Labor unions, insurance companies, hospitals and health groups fought back with a $3.4 million campaign that promised the tax increase would go to insure nearly 100,000 children and to discourage more Oregonians from smoking.

Bill Lunch, chairman of the political science department at Oregon State University, called the measure’s failure “an example of an election being bought. It’s as simple as that,” he said, pointing to Oregonians’ previous approval of cigarette tax increases…

Kulongoski promised supporters the Legislature would revisit the issue in 2009. The crowd called back with pleas to address health care for children during the supplemental session in February.

A glum Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said he doubts that will happen. “Our kids are losers tonight. I don’t know where we go from here,” he said.

Oregon’s proposal tried to get at the growing number of people without health insurance as premiums grow too pricey for many working families to afford. About one in six Oregonians lack health insurance, including an estimated 116,000 children…

J.L. Wilson, spokesman for Reynolds American, which spent about $5 million to defeat the tobacco tax, emerged from a private party in Salem to say opponents weren’t celebrating. He said the gathering was more of a “decompression chamber” after working long hours and being “called every name in the book” by anti-tobacco activists.

“We’re not going to crack open champagne and smoke cigars,” he said. “It was a job we had to do.”

Gosh, those big tobacco people are horrible. They’re almost as mean as Republicans.

By the way, when Democrats win an election where they outspend the GOP does our watchdog media say the election was bought?

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, November 7th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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