LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Oklahoma voters will soon be deciding whether to change the way the state’s tobacco settlement money is distributed. State Question 814 will be on the ballot come November and would help pay for Medicaid expansion. But opponents say it would take millions of dollars away from programs that have already helped millions of Oklahomans.
Matt Glanville with the American Cancer Society Action Network is saying no to State Question 814.
He said legislatures are diverting funding from an agency that operates proven public health programs.
“Like the Oklahoma tobacco helpline, a physician recruitment program from underserved areas, and of course cancer research and tobacco prevention dollars. In order to fund a basic responsibility of government they should be funding with new revenue basically,” Glanville said.
Oklahoma Senator Kim David, who pushed to get SQ 814 on the ballot, said this is not the case, there has been some misperception about SQ814 taking money away from the endowment trust fund.
“But what we’re looking at doing is taking any new money coming into the state from the tobacco company so this is only new money coming in. We do not touch the tobacco settlement trust endowment fund. What we are doing to do is currently 75-percent of all the money goes into that trust fund, and 25-percent goes to legislatures, and we are flipping that amount," David said.
Glanville said legislators could use several options to fund Medicaid and doesn’t understand why they are choosing this route.
“This is just another example of legislators playing kind of a shell game with state revenues as they refuse to raise taxes even on products like cigars or e-cigarettes. With the state question, legislators are refusing to take the steps needed to make true new investments in public health in Oklahoma. We need to improve our status overall in terms of health we’re 47th in overall health outcomes and in order to improve on all that we need to make a true new investment. We don’t need to move around existing money that are being used for things like cancer research in order to find Medicaid expansion," Glanville.
David said the state will need $250 million for the Medicaid expansion and that money will come from state taxpayers.
But if 814 passes, it will bring in about $50 million to help go towards that.
“I think it’s important for people to realize with Medicaid expansion about $50 million for the program that tset currently covers on tobacco sensation will be covered over Medicaid. I’m asking with state question 814 that some of this money roles into helping pay with those same services but now will be covered over Medicaid," David said.