Tobacco task force approves recommendations for spending $10.1 billion
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio schools and public health programs get most of the state's $10.1 billion slice of the national tobacco settlement under a spending plan, but other interests are still looking for their cut.
The Governor's Tobacco Task Force approved spending recommendations Wednesday as the job of finalizing those recommendations goes now to the Legislature.
Senate President Richard Finan, R-Cincinnati, said he wants the recommendations passed and signed into law this fall.
"If we don't get it passed by the end of November it will be very difficult to pass in an election year," he said.
The task force tweaked its earlier proposals but kept the framework of its recommendation to create seven funds to oversee the allocation of the tobacco settlement.
Three trust funds would address Ohio's public health needs and receive $4.3 billion or 43 percent of the total estimated revenue through 2025.
Two trust funds would pay for educational facilities and technology and would receive $5.5 billion or 55 percent of the revenue through 2025.
One trust fund would address law enforcement needs of the Attorney General's office and would receive $25 million, or 0.25 percent of the revenue.
A final trust fund would address agricultural and community development in southern Ohio's tobacco-growing region. This fund would receive $229 million or 5 percent of the total estimated revenue through 2011. Twenty-two counties in Ohio produce tobacco.
The money is Ohio's portion of the $206 billion settlement with the major tobacco companies last year. Ohio's first two payments, totaling $443 million, are due in June or July.
State Rep. Jerry Krupinski, D-Steubenville, cast the only no vote after his amendment giving more money to subsidized prescription drugs was defeated.
"My fight was for prescription drugs, for medication for those who can't afford it, for those who have to choose between eating and buying medication," he said. "I don't see a correlation between school facilities and health."
Prosecutors from Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lucas, Montgomery and Summit counties have met with Finan and House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, R-Reynoldsburg, to discuss counties receiving money for their uncompensated medical costs from smoking-related illnesses.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Wednesday that counties had received up to 50 percent of the settlement money in other states.
"We're hoping they will reconsider a reimbursement of funds for associated health care costs similar to claims the state presented," O'Brien said.
Davidson said she and Finan tried in their meeting with prosecutors "to explain that we felt, both directly and indirectly, their counties would benefit from the allocations and the recommendations of this task force."