State lawmakers will continue their quest Tuesday to obtain a full accounting of how money is being spent in a $54 million state health program supported largely by tobacco settlement funds.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee has asked state agencies and private contractors receiving money from the Fund for a Healthy Maine to give a presentation and explain where the money is going. At a Sept. 28 meeting, the committee learned that a 2012 law designed to provide a better accounting of fund spending had not been carried out by the agency responsible for that task, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Three days after the meeting, the department provided the committee with Fund for a Healthy Maine spending data from state agencies. But the committee has yet to receive information on what private contractors were hired under the fund and the nature and value of those contracts. The department’s spokesman, Alex Willette, said the agency has not yet obtained contractor spending data.

Willette said in an interview that the 2012 law was written in a way that the responsibility for reporting the fund data fell on recipients and that the agency did not have the authority to request it. He also said that the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the program, had provided the Legislature’s budget committee with a full accounting of fund spending.

However, some lawmakers, including budget committee members, still have questions about how Fund for a Healthy Maine money is being spent. In September, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, and Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, requested a review of the program by the Legislature’s watchdog agency, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.

Their request marks the second time in four years that fund spending has come under legislative scrutiny. In 2011, OPEGA reviewed the fund and drafted a list of recommendations. Eight of those recommendations were put into law by the Legislature, including the accounting program that was never implemented by the financial services agency.


The human services committee has tentatively scheduled interviews with officials from that agency and the human services department for the meeting Tuesday.

The Fund for a Healthy Maine was created in 1999 to receive and disburse Maine’s share of annual payments from the 1998 Landmark Master Tobacco Settlement Case. The fund was designed to improve health through a variety of programs, including smoking cessation and prevention. However, it now funds a broad array of health initiatives.

For example, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention spent more than $580,000 last year on school health and nutrition programs, in addition to $8.5 million on smoking prevention and cessation initiatives and efforts to reduce smoking among children. Nearly $1.8 million was spent on substance abuse prevention and treatment.

Increasingly, the state has used the Fund for a Healthy Maine to support its Medicaid program, known as MaineCare.

In 2008-2009, MaineCare allocations represented about 12 percent of all allocations from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. It’s now over 50 percent, or $25.9 million annually, according to data from the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office. In 2011, the state spent $7.9 million of Fund for a Healthy Maine money on Medicaid initiatives.

Maine has historically been among the national leaders in devoting tobacco settlement money to smoking cessation and prevention. In 2015, the state ranked seventh in spending on smoking cessation and prevention as a percentage of settlement money. However, the ranking can be misleading because many states spend little on tobacco-related programs.

Only two states spend on tobacco programs at the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fiscal year 2015, the states collected $25.6 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, according to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Only 1.9 percent of it was spent on tobacco programs.


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