Dems: Keep $100M of tobacco dollars
Associated Press FRANKFORT - Senate Democrats want to set aside part of Kentucky's share of the national tobacco settlement for the time when the money stops coming in from the cigarette manufacturers.
Democrats, who are now in the minority in the Senate, said $100 million of the $389 million the state expects to be able to spend in the coming budget period should go into an interest-bearing trust fund.
Sen. Joey Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville, said Thursday the trust fund should get a portion of the proceeds each year. Future sessions of the General Assembly will determine how to spend the money.
A part of the settlement is that funds are supposed to be distributed for 25 years, but few expect them to last even half that long as the cigarette companies can reduce payments based on declining sales and other factors.
The Democrats also want half the money going to farm initiatives, the same as Gov. Paul Patton has proposed. Patton made no accommodation for setting aside part of the settlement money in the proposal he outlined last week. Instead, he said he wanted to use nearly $69 million to underwrite research efforts at Kentucky universities, an extension of the ''bucks for brains'' idea set up in 1998.
Like Patton, the Senate group also wants to finance health care initiatives, such as teen smoking prevention and lung cancer research.
The Senate Democrats want some portion set aside to assist tobacco warehouse operators, whose finances also will suffer as the amount of tobacco grown and sold in Kentucky declines.
Patton wants some of the money set aside to underwrite an insurance pool for people unable to obtain reasonably priced coverage on the open market. And one-fourth of future proceeds would finance early childhood development programs under Patton's plan.
Patton and Senate Democrats are not alone in their ideas for using the tobacco settlement. Some health groups want virtually all the money and legislators have raised the idea of using almost all of it for health insurance for state workers.
The state has received one payment and another is due soon. Before June 30, the state is supposed to receive $137 million. Another $101 million is due in the 2001 fiscal year and $121 million in 2002.