|For Immediate Release
December 8, 1999
For More Information Contact:
Office of Marketing and Communications
State government officials are encouraging community input concerning the distribution of $4.2 billion awarded to Indiana as a result of the 1998 tobacco settlement at an upcoming town hall meeting on Dec. 15 at Indiana University Northwest.
Sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office, the Governor’s Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana, the Indiana State Department of Health, and the Family and Social Services administration, the meeting will allow residents to give their views on how they would like to see the funds used and distributed throughout the state. Representatives from the state government will be present at the meeting and invite community members to “learn, ask, and comment” about the tobacco settlement which will amount to about $170 million a year for the next 25 years.
The town hall meeting at IU Northwest is one of four meetings scheduled in Indiana, with the other three taking place in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Mitchell. Public comment from the meetings will be channeled to Governor Frank O’Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Modisett as they prepare their proposal for the next General Assembly session in January.
According to a press release issued by the Governor’s office, both O’Bannon and Modisett believe Indiana’s share of the tobacco settlement should go to improve the health of Hoosiers.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to help the people of Indiana improve their lives through better health,” Modisett explained in the release. “It amazes me that despite all of the proof that smoking is bad for your health, Hoosiers still smoke more than most other Americans. We have to do better.”
IU Northwest’s Division of Nursing is working with town hall meeting organizers in preparing for the community session in Northwest Indiana.
“The quality of life of everyone in Northwest Indiana is very important,” says Linda Delunas, professor of nursing and community outreach liaison. “At a recent Indiana State Nurses Convention, we passed an emergency resolution supporting that the settlement be spent on health related issues, with a special consideration to the elderly – in helping them to stop smoking.”
According to the Governor’s office, the state has three options for handling the income. 1. Spend it all each year. 2. Spend part of it and save part in a trust fund, the yield from which could benefit upcoming generations. 3. “Securitize” it. The third option involves issuing bonds for as much as half of the 4.2 billion awarded. From the sale of the bonds, the state would take the lump sum and invest it, using the interest from the investment to fund anti-smoking and other health programs. At the same time, annual settlement payments are projected to be sufficient to pay debt service on the bond and to provide supplemental program funds. Under this formula, the risk of non-payment by the tobacco companies would be shifted to the bondholders.
The Town Hall meeting at Indiana University Northwest will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Hawthorn Hall. For more information, contact the IU Northwest Office of Marketing and Communications at 219-980-6685.