Oklahomans say spend interest only on tobacco funds - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Oklahomans say spend interest only on tobacco funds

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The state's tobacco settlement money should go into a trust fund with only the interest being spent, according to a majority of people surveyed in a new poll.

A copyright story in The Sunday Oklahoman said 59 percent of people surveyed in the recent poll support putting the tobacco money away. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said they were against using the funds to cut taxes.

The state is expecting to get about $2.3 billion from the national settlement with tobacco companies over the next 25 years.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has been a supporter of putting the tobacco money away and said he sees growing momentum for the plan among lawmakers.

"I think people see this as an opportunity to do something and let's not fritter it away with a marginal tax cut when in fact we have this opportunity to deal with some real needs in this state," said Gary Copeland, a University of Oklahoma political science professor and adviser to the poll.

Copeland said poll respondents also showed that they favor using the money to deal with tobacco-related issues.

The scientific poll asked three questions about how the money should be used.

Using money to treat smoking-related illnesses received the highest approval with 30 percent. Forty-three percent of respondents who claimed to be smokers supported that idea.

The poll shows that respondents don't think any one target makes sense for all the money, Copeland said.

House Speaker Loyd Benson has proposed using $37 million in tobacco money received in the past week to help finance a $260 million health initiative. The state's money would be matched by federal funds and $1.6 million would be spent for a tobacco cessation program.

Those polled also supported more funding for education with the money. But 59 percent were against using the funds to bail out the teacher retirement system.

Oklahoma has received about $48 million so far from the tobacco industry. The money has gone into the general revenue fund where it will be appropriated by the Legislature. The Legislature passed and Gov. Frank Keating signed a bill creating a tobacco trust fund this year.

The scientific telephone poll has an error margin of plus or minus 5 percent. It was conducted with 411 state residents by the University of Oklahoma Public Opinion Learning Laboratory between April 10 and 13.
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