OHIO - American Legacy Foundation will appeal decision to allow state to use tobacco funds..

January 8, 2010 - A Franklin County Common Pleas Judge ruled on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 that state officials had no authority to divert $230 million from an anti-tobacco fund to balance the recently approved state budget.

On Thursday, December 31, 2009 an Ohio three-member appeals court ruled the state can use about $230 million set aside for tobacco prevention for other purposes overturning a trial court's decision - the case above.

But the state can't access the funds until the case is resolved, which depends on whether the American Legacy Foundation decides to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The American Legacy Foundation said yesterday, January 6th that it will appeal a lower-court decision last week that would allow the state to use the tobacco funds in its two-year budget. The funds are what remain from the $10 billion that Ohio received from a 1998 settlement with major tobacco companies.

The foundation's president, Cheryl G. Healton, said in a statement: "Ohio is now dangerously close to joining the growing number of states that have diverted their tobacco settlement monies to purposes for which they were never intended, squandering precious opportunities to, literally, save lives."

Gov. Ted Strickland said he thinks the state has the authority to decide the best use of the tobacco money and that he is considering contacting foundation board members to express his displeasure with the legal fight.

The state wants to use $130 million of the tobacco funds to pay for optional services under Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor; $92 million for county subsidies for child-welfare services; $32.2 million to provide health insurance for poor children; and $3.4 million for breast- and cervical-cancer screenings.

Reference: APPEAL TO OHIO SUPREME COURT Tobacco-money dispute isn't over by Mark Niquette, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1/7/2010.