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Kentucky Senate Committee OKs Tobacco Settlement Bill

cigarette
Photographer: Kari Soderholm
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The Kentucky state Senate is poised to pass a bill that would restore funds to several programs associated with the 1998 tobacco settlement.

Revenue from the tobacco settlement has flagged as fewer people have bought cigarettes in the state, leading to shortfalls in programs dealing with agriculture, early childhood, cancer research and programs that help people quit smoking.

"It's what our revenue’s based on and as that goes down, the divisions to each one of those agencies goes down also,” said Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville who sponsored the bill.

The extra money comes from a new settlement the state made with tobacco companies in 2014. Under the agreement, the state received an additional $110 million in fiscal year 2014 and over the next three years will receive $57.2 million more than the state had budgeted to receive from the tobacco settlement.

The bill also ensures that the money from the settlement can only be appropriated by the legislature. Last year Gov. Steve Beshear used the money to restore $42.5 million in budget cuts to lung cancer research, agriculture and other health assistance.

Several Senate Republicans suggested that Beshear’s use of the funds was a breach of power and that budget appropriations should be left to the legislature.

“This is important not only for agriculture but to recognize the three co-equal branches of government and the legislature’s sole constitutional authority to appropriate public dollars,” said Sen. Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown.

The bill has already passed the House and now heads to the full Senate.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.