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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

The Case for Measure G

Cutting Through Smoke of Battle Over Tobacco Funds

Spending 40% of the county's share of the tobacco settlement is the right thing to do because it would free up $386 million in future tax revenue.

October 08, 2000|JOHN M.W. MOORLACH | John M.W. Moorlach is Orange County treasurer-tax collector

Please review your sample ballot or "Candidates/Measures" at http://www.oc.ca.gov/election/. Read the independent financial analyses prepared by another countywide elected official and certified public accountant, Auditor-Controller David E. Sundstrom.

Out of nearly $1.5 billion in projected tobacco revenues, Measure G frees up $256 million of your future tax dollars. Additionally, prepaying our bankruptcy debt provides $130 million of eliminated interest costs. This non-tax revenue source releases $386 million of your taxes for other pressing needs that will directly benefit all of the taxpayers of Orange County.

Measure H will cost the taxpayers $66 million. It will come out of your taxes that support the county's general fund. This further exacerbates an already-debt-constricted budget.

The difference between measures G and H is $452 million. "H" stands for "higher taxes." We have a $950-million bankruptcy debt burden.

The federal government is reducing its deficit. California has some $20 billion of surpluses. Orange County, still a donor county, contributed 10% toward this surplus, gets no benefit and is still in debt. "H" stands for "heist."

Tobacco settlement revenues are not restricted.

The state has been depositing all of its tobacco revenues into its general fund with no legislative restrictions. Now we have certain current and former state elected officials who are telling you what to do with county money. Yet they waste state funds and send none of their bloated surplus to help out our health care needs. "H" stands for "hijack."

Both measures allocate significant funds to health care.

Initially, Measure G allocates 42% to health care, 18% to public safety, and 40% to bankruptcy debt reduction. Over a 39-year period it will allocate 58% to health care, 25% to public safety, and 17% to debt reduction (that's only one out of every six dollars). It's that simple. The health care industry doesn't think 58% is enough, they want 80%. 'H" stands for "hog."

Neither Measure G nor H will solve the health care industry's problems.

You will hear plenty of emotional stories of how badly the medical association needs additional funds. Claims that we owe the private sector are fabricated. There is no mandate that all of the funds should go to the medical association. "H" stands for "hype."

The health care industry has money. Orange County hospitals netted more than $200 million last year. The chief executive officer of Tenet Healthcare, which owns 10 hospitals in Orange County and contributed more than $71,000 to the Yes on H campaign, earned more than $102.4 million in compensation since 1993. The corporation spent $40 million for two luxury jets. Why do taxpayers have to subsidize this type of spending? "H" stands for "hypocrisy."

Measure H has no taxpayer protections.

Measure G provides for accountability through oversight, annual audits, performance measures, financial reporting and flexibility. Measure H does not. If this doesn't remind you of the Robert Citron era, what will? "H" stands for "hoodwink."

Measure G is a way to right the wrongs.

Measure G is an excellent and exciting opportunity to remedy a multitude of financial concerns. It's a "big-picture" approach. Reducing our debt is the right and honorable thing to do. Measure G is better than what the health care industry was willing to compromise with the Board of Supervisors. "G" stands for "great stewardship."

Be careful who you listen to.

We need to elect citizens to public office who really understand finances. How many times will we need to learn this lesson? Those who have endorsed Measure G have your best financial interest in mind, and reflect the fiscal prudence we taxpayers should expect. Go through your sample ballot. If the candidates are "Yes on H," then write "financially unfit," "pro-special interest," or "anti-taxpayer" next to their names.

It's time to seriously address our county's finances. This is a great opportunity. We can do it without a tax increase. And the health care industry will still get nearly 60% of the total dollars.

That's a win-win. Measure G will ensure that we have a county that is in good physical and fiscal health. Join me in voting yes on Measure G and no on Measure H. It's a half-billion dollar vote!

*

Editor's Note: Two competing initiatives on the ballot next month would allocate Orange County's roughly $30 million annually in tobacco settlement money differently. Marian Bergeson makes the case for Measure H, which would give 80% to health care and the rest to public safety. John M.W. Moorlach argues for Measure G, which would give money to those purposes but designate 40% of the total to paying down the county's bankruptcy debt. The initiative with the highest vote total wins, but if neither gets more than 50%, county supervisors would decide how the money is spent.

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