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Archive for Saturday, August 12, 2000

Group has plan for tobacco funds

August 12, 2000

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— The Kansas Children's Cabinet has recommended to Gov. Bill Graves how the state should spend a $40 million allocation from tobacco settlement money in the next budget year.

The 15-member Cabinet created last year is charged with making recommendations on how to spend the millions of dollars going into a special trust fund to handle the state's share of the tobacco settlement.

The state expects to receive $1.77 billion over the next 25 years from the settlement, and nearly all of it will go into the trust fund. By law, money from the trust fund can be spent only to benefit children.

The proposal for fiscal year 2002, which begins July 1, 2001, represents a $10 million increase over the current spending year.

The biggest single expenditure proposed by the Cabinet is $14.3 million for the Smart Start Kansas program, which got $2.75 million in the current state budget.

Smart Start focuses on early childhood care and education programs. It provides funding through grants to communities with targeted needs in the areas of quality, availability and affordability of child care and early childhood education, plus child health services and family support services.

Attorney General Carla Stovall wanted to increase the funding from $500,000 to $6 million for community-based tobacco prevention programs. But some Cabinet members were reluctant to shift money from other areas for that.

Stovall wanted the funding to focus on tobacco prevention programs for pregnant women and children up to age 5. The Cabinet liked the idea but decided to earmarked some of the Smart Start funds to pay for the plan.

In the end, the attorney general was the only Cabinet member who voted against the spending plan. She said her vote wasn't a rejection of the entire budget proposal.

"I would have liked to have seen more money for tobacco prevention," Stovall said. "I support the budget in general, but wanted more for prevention."

She said her concern is if the 2001 Legislature cuts the Smart Start funding, it would reduce the amount for tobacco prevention.

Another member, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Dave Kerr, didn't vote on the proposal since he will be dealing with the issue as a legislator.

But he suggested to Cabinet members that they retain the various programs approved by lawmakers this year.

"These items withstood legislative scrutiny, and it's unlikely they will go away," said Kerr, R-Hutchinson. "You would be picking an unnecessary fight you are unlikely to win."

The Cabinet's proposal will be reviewed by Graves and his staff for inclusion in the state budget proposal he will present to lawmakers in January. While Graves can rewrite the Cabinet's proposal, it's unlikely he will make radical changes.

"I don't think they need to worry about that," Graves told reporters Friday.

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