Quinn: "Liquidate" tobacco settlement fund

No smoking sign

Remember the "tobacco settlement," in which the cigaret companies agreed to pay billions and billions of dollars to the states in order to wage campaigns against smoking? 

Illinois apparently has a pile of money left from that settlement sitting around, waiting to be spent on that campaign.  Now, Illinois Statehouse News reports that Gov. Pat Quinn wants to "liquidate" that fund and spend the tobacco money to help balance the budget.

And he is proposing a plan that would "liquidate" money from
Illinois' tobacco settlement. Quinn's budget office estimates the money from the tobacco settlement
and other state bank accounts that would be cleared out could free
up close to $2 billion.

Not that Illinois has been doing such a great job spending the money, but, what the hell? Is it legal to spend the money on something other than the purposes set out in the agreement? (Read the settlement, and you'll find that you're drowning in lawyer speak, so I guess it will take a lawyer to figure it out.) In effect, Quinn is proposing that the tobacco companies that paid the settlement bail us out of our irresponsible spending.

Quinn continues to fog the air with issues such as this, but still proposes to increase spending, when the recession has forced all of us to cut back. 

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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