OAKLAND — Mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and other backers of a $1-per-pack tobacco tax to fund cancer research said they submitted more than enough petition signatures Wednesday to put their measure on the ballot in 2012.
Perata, in a news conference at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, said the California Cancer Research Act's supporters hope the high voter turnout of a presidential election year will help the measure, even as it's attacked by the tobacco industry and anti-tax groups.
"We're going to be in a big fight," he acknowledged. "In that sense, getting the signatures was really the easy part."
Money raised would go into a trust fund, with 60 cents of every dollar to fund research on causes, prevention and treatment of cancer and other smoking-related illnesses; 20 cents to fund smoking cessation and tobacco use prevention programs; 15 cents to fund research facilities and equipment; 3 cents to fund anti-tobacco and anti-smuggling enforcement; and no more than 2 cents per dollar for administrative costs.
Perata estimated the tax will raise about $855 million per year at first, although that figure will decline as smoking wanes.
Backing the measure are the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Perata said LIVESTRONG, cyclist Lance Armstrong's anti-cancer foundation, formally endorsed
Representatives of major tobacco companies have said adults choosing to smoke already pay high taxes and — as they're often among the working poor — shouldn't be penalized further, especially in a bad economy.
One of them also said it is poor public policy to fund important programs such as medical research with a declining revenue source.
Representatives for the California Taxpayers' Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said they expect their groups will oppose the measure for the same reasons.
But Jane Warner, chief executive of the American Lung Association in California, said the measure makes good fiscal sense, as tobacco costs the state $15.8 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity every year.
Hope 2010, the ballot measure committee Perata created to support the measure, has contributed $485,000 to the cause but also made almost $99,000 in civic donations, only $1,000 of which was to a cancer-related charity.
Perata said he visited various nonprofits seeking endorsements for the measure, and "when I heard the (financial) trouble some of them were in, well, I have a soft touch."
He gave $50,000 to Avalon Village, an Alameda nonprofit providing concierge-like assistance to seniors living in their own homes, directed by former Perata campaign treasurer and confidante Jill Cabeceiras; another $25,000 went to the Oakland Parents Literacy Project, of which Cabeceiras is development director.
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