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Beshear Vetoes Part Of Tobacco Settlement Bill, Revenue Less Than Expected

Steve Beshear
Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear has vetoed part of a bill that appropriates money from the state’s settlement with tobacco companies.

The bill had set aside money to fill an estimated $26.6 million shortfall to fund agriculture, lung cancer research and early childhood programs.

The governor deleted the line that would have appropriated $26.6 million, saying that the shortfall has grown to $37 million.

“Taking this action now provides a solution to this late-breaking problem and avoids budget cuts to the very same programs for which the General Assembly, in this bill, provides additional funding for next year,” Beshear said in his veto statement.

The bill restores funds to several programs that are funded by a multi-state, multi-million dollar settlement stemming from a 1998 lawsuit against tobacco companies. Additional money for the programs comes from a smaller settlement Attorney General Jack Conway secured from tobacco companies last year.

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.

The state House and Senate sponsors of the bill say they agree with Beshear’s veto because the bill was written with an expectation of more money from the tobacco settlement.

“Now we find out at this late hour that some of that money could be less than we anticipated so instead of those programs taking a cut when we know we have excess funds, I’m in favor of allowing him to backfill the program with those excess funds,” said Rep. Rick Rand, a Bedford Democrat.

Beshear is expected to fill the shortfall with money that hasn’t yet been appropriated from the additional settlement.

Sen. Paul Hornback, a Shelbyville Republican and Senate sponsor of the bill, took issue with the governor using tobacco settlement money to shore up a budget shortfall last year. However, he says he has no problem with what the governor’s doing this year.

“He’s discussed the settlement with me. He only vetoed the parts of the bill that needed to be vetoed. He didn’t veto anything else and I don’t have any problem with what he’s doing,” Hornback said.

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