LANSING -- Proposal 4 is just what the doctor ordered for Michigan by providing more money for health care, according to Roger Martin, spokesman for the Citizens for a Healthy Michigan.
But the "Healthy Michigan" proposal is unhealthy for the state budget, according to David Waymire.
Waymire, spokesman for People Protecting Kids and the Constitution, also is a co-founder of the Healthy Michigan Foundation, which stands to receive $3 million should Proposal 4 pass in the Nov. 5 election.
Although his foundation will receive money if the proposal passes, Waymire opposes what he calls "an attack on the Michigan Constitution in the worst way."
The proposal, which is backed by the Michigan Hospitals Association and Citizens for a Healthy Michigan, would allocate 90 percent of the "tobacco settlement revenue" received by the state, about $300 million, to various nonprofit organizations.
Those organizations include nonprofit hospitals, licensed nursing homes, licensed hospices, nurse practitioners, school-linked health centers and the Healthy Michigan Foundation.
Money also would go to fund anti-smoking programs, the Health and Aging Research Development initiative, the Tobacco-Free Futures Fund and the Elder Drug Prescription Drug Program.
A main concern about distributing the money is that none of the organizations receiving the money is governed by the Freedom of Information Act.
"They have no accountability," Waymire said.
The Tobacco-Free Futures Fund will be overseen by a 19-to 25-member board appointed by the governor, speaker of the House, attorney general, Senate majority leader and the director of the Department of Community Health, according to Martin.
The fund will comply with the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act, Martin promised.
"They're lying," Waymire countered. "Nowhere in the proposal's language does it guarantee that they will comply."
The proposal could virtually end the Michigan Merit Award Scholarship Program, a program that provides money for 138,000 students in the state if the Legislature doesn't find another funding source.
Sen. John Schwarz, R-Battle Creek, co-chair of the opposition to Proposal 4, said it's not just health care against education; it's health care against the state budget.
"It's an unprecedented attack on the Constitution," Schwarz said.
Removing $300 million from the state General Fund would further burden the budget by adding to an already proposed $1 billion deficit in 2004, according to Kelly Chesney, the director of communications for the office of state budget.
Proposal 4 would do more harm than help to senior citizens by cutting quality of life grants to low-income seniors, Chesney said. The grants are used by seniors who need help tying their shoes and with personal grooming, she said.
Other programs that could suffer if Proposal 4 passes include the Life Sciences Corridor, the Elder Pharmaceutical Insurance Program and the Council of Michigan Foundations.
Even though the Michigan Hospital Association supports Proposal 4, Sparrow Hospital does not.
"Sparrow firmly believes that the tobacco funds should be used for health care," said Laurie Rishar, director of community relations for Sparrow Hospital. "But Proposal 4 is not the answer."
The redistribution of the money to hospitals is based on net revenue, not indigent care, Rishar said.
"The rich hospitals get richer, while hospitals that serve the poor like Sparrow, continue to struggle," she said.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University
School of Journalism
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism