Finance - April 11, 2014

Tobacco Settlement Fund regains $120 million.

A Philadelphia Judge restored $120 million to the tobacco settlement fund that had been stripped by an arbitration panel.  The ruling restores only a portion of what was lost in the arbitration, however, state lawmakers are championing Thursday’s ruling as a victory for the state. Attorney General Kathleen Kane stressed the importance of the money for, “smoking cessation, medical research and health programs that depend on this money.”  In all, the fund will lose around $60 million. 

The suit was brought by tobacco companies Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. who argued whether the state was collecting money on the sale of products of competitors who did not join the pact. According to the 1998 settlement the disputing companies may have their payments to the fund cut if they lose market share. The Pittsburg Post Tribune indicated that the primary dispute was whether the state should collect tax on “products such as roll-your-own cigarette tobacco.”


Sebelius steps down as Health and Human Services Secretary

President Obama accepted the resignation of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this week amid the tumultuous roll out of the Affordable Care Act.  Although the numbers of enrollees were more positive in March, news reports sited tension with White House officials alongside political motives as the reasons for Sebelius’ resignation.  As the Affordable Care Act has provided fodder against democratic incumbents in the midterm elections, many believe that Sebelius’ resignation is an attempt to remove some of the heat from lawmakers for its troubling roll out.  President Obama is expected to nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius on Friday.