Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ask Your Legislators to Consider the Harmful Effects on Minnesotans’ Health and our Children’s Future

Yesterday, Governor Dayton and Republican legislative leaders agreed to a “framework” for a budget agreement. The deal is built on the Republicans’ pre-shutdown proposal which included borrowing on future tobacco settlement payments ($700 million) and delaying payments to school districts ($700 million).

This is unfortunate news for all Minnesotans. While we understand and support a fast resolution to the state government shutdown and the current political stalemate, securitizing Minnesota’s tobacco settlement funds and borrowing from K-12 education is not an acceptable solution when in fact there is another option to help relieve the budget pressures. A $1.50 increase in the price of tobacco would raise $400 million over the biennium without sacrificing the incredible progress we’ve made to counter tobacco’s influence in Minnesota.

Legislators will be finalizing the budget bills over the weekend and early next week to fit within the “framework” they have agreed upon. The Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) will be part of this final negotiation. SHIP was established as part of Minnesota’s 2008 health care reform law. This forward-thinking investment promotes healthier behaviors and reduces health care costs over the long term by tackling obesity and tobacco use at the local community level. As the Legislature and Governor negotiate the final details of their deal over the weekend and early next week, we ask you to contact lawmakers and tell them:

  1. you support increasing the price of tobacco as a partial solution to relieving the budget pressures; and

  2. you urge them to fund the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to save lives and reduce health care costs.
Raising the price of tobacco would not only be a part of the budget solution but it is also estimated to save 61,700 Minnesotan kids from becoming smokers. Moreover, making a small investment of state dollars, SHIP tackles the two biggest public health problems Minnesotans face – obesity and tobacco use. With projected health care savings of $1.9 billion by 2015, SHIP is clearly part of the solution. Eliminating funding for SHIP now would erase the promise of real health care cost reductions.

Tell your lawmakers and the Governor that increasing the price of tobacco is a more fiscally responsible way to address our budget problems and funding prevention is the smart strategy to reduce health care costs over the long term.

Take action today, your voice matters!

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