Republicans resist plan to spend tobacco settlement money in '00
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Frank O'Bannon tried to put public pressure on legislators to spend some of Indiana's tobacco settlement money this year, but a Senate committee approved a plan Thursday that wouldn't spend a dime in 2000.
"I have a problem appropriating the money to groups without knowing what they are going to do with it," said Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst, R-Greenwood.
Borst did hold out hope of reaching some sort of compromise with O'Bannon and his Democratic colleagues who control the House, at least on setting up an administrative structure to oversee the money.
But, he said, "I'm not so sure about allocations."
Indiana already has received about $94 million from the national tobacco settlement and is expected to get about $200 million more over the next 18 months. It is to get more than $5 billion over the next 30 years.
So far, only $47 million has been appropriated, that to a children's health insurance program overseen by the state. None of the rest can be spent before June 30, 2001, without new legislation this year.
O'Bannon wants lawmakers to spend $110 million in ongoing programs this year, including $20 million to help low income senior citizens pay for prescription drugs.
That and other parts of O'Bannon's proposal, including money for smoking cessation and prevention efforts this year, are included in a bill before the full House.
O'Bannon spoke at senior citizens' centers in Fort Wayne, Mishawaka and Gary on Thursday to detail his proposal and drum up public support for spending some of the money this year.
"We need to get started now. Many of you can't afford to wait for the General Assembly to act next year," O'Bannon said in prepared remarks he was to deliver at the West Central Neighborhood Ministry in Fort Wayne.
Borst has said that creating a structure to administer the money is more important than spending some of it this year.
Under Borst's bill, approved by his committee 14-1, only 50 percent of the money could be spent. The other half would be put in a trust fund, with only the earned interest to be appropriated.
The bill also would create an advisory board to oversee money spent on smoking cessation and reduction efforts. Its members would be appointed by the governor, and must have knowledge or skill in smoking cessation, health care services or preventive health care measures.
The governor would appoint five of the 13 voting members on the advice of such groups as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the Indiana State Medical Association.
Although the General Assembly would appropriate the money, the board would decide how to dole it out.
"I don't want to sit here year after year interviewing 30 or 40 or 50 worthwhile interest groups," Borst said. "I would like to put the special interest groups in a committee and let them fight it out."
Borst's bill also would create separate funds for spending money on health care, biomedical research and technology, local health departments and efforts to help communities in tobacco-growing areas of the state weather declines in demand for tobacco.
"I personally think with a couple of changes in philosophy on each side (House and Senate), we can come out of this session with a bill," Borst said.