We’ve witnessed previous, unsuccessful attempts from the state lawmakers to pillage the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and it has been mostly right to oppose those efforts, which were really just aimed at tapping a huge amount of money totaling over $1 billion and redirecting it without much thought into how that money would be spent.
State Question 814, which is on the general election ballot, seeks to reverse the percentage formula for TSET funding and use a large percentage to pay Oklahoma’s portion of the Medicaid payment. Oklahoma voters approved Medicaid Expansion in June, which means accepting hundreds of millions in federal dollars to insure more Oklahomans.
In the late 1990s, tobacco companies were ordered to make annual payouts to states, and for Oklahoma, that money has been locked into TSET. The payout is currently 75 percent to the lockbox, which now totals over a billion dollars, and 25 percent goes to a legislative and attorney general fund. TSET takes its operational cost by using the interest generated from the fund.
SQ 814 would flip the percentage of annual payments to 75 percent going to the legislative fund and used to fund Medicaid and 25 percent would go into the TSET endowment.
The arguments against it, meaning a no vote, seem to be a worry that the decreasing interest would leave TSET with less operational dollars and fewer grants to pass out. The other argument is that the legislature could find other ways to pay for Oklahoma’s responsibility to Medicaid.
For our money, it would appear that SQ 814 is a pretty good compromise if the money is still going to be used to keep more Oklahomans healthy, and we might not be too thrilled where other cuts come from.