Doyle tobacco plan moves forward
(Mar. 15, 2000) -- The Monroe County Legislature yesterday took a step toward approving County Executive Jack Doyle's proposal to sell the county's rights to tobacco settlement money.
Doyle wants to sell the rights as a way of getting $137 million right away, instead of receiving the settlement money in yearly payments.
Without a dissenting vote, the legislature last night set a public hearing for April 11 to air the Doyle proposal, introduced Monday.
Such a hearing is required before the legislature can give the proposal final approval.
April 11 is also the date of the next meeting of the legislature. And the Doyle administration hopes to get final approval at that meeting.
But Democratic Minority Leader H. Todd Bullard said that yesterday's vote was not an indication of how Democrats would vote on the bill.
"We need to analyze all the aspects" of the Doyle proposal, said Bullard, who complained that many details were still not known.
Republican Majority Leader A. Michael Hanna, who supports the proposal, said that he would encourage the Doyle administration to brief the Democratic legislators before the April meeting.
"The next month will be very enlightening," he said.
But the Republican majority resisted a Democratic request to put the proposal again before the legislature's Ways and Means Committee.
Under Doyle's proposal, the county would be selling its rights to receive annual payments from the nationwide settlement of lawsuits against major tobacco companies.
Bonds, backed by the rights to these payments, would be sold to raise $137 million.
Doyle would use that money to pay off part of the county's debt and to help finance major projects. That would help stabilize property taxes, which otherwise would pay for those items.
Some critics say the tobacco settlement money should be earmarked for promoting an anti-smoking campaign and payment of medical costs related to smoking.
The Doyle administration is willing to spend $500,000 a year for an anti-smoking "Quit Line."
In other matters, the legislature last night approved about $8 million in contracts for the expansion of the Monroe County Jail.
The legislature also approved about $7 million in contracts for the new Public Safety Training Facility off Scottsville Road.
And the legislature voted to accept a $223,308 state grant to begin a program to report HIV infections and notify partners of patients, which is required by state law.