From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Arkansas is still reaping the benefits of a smart decision by voters more than 20 years ago.
We were one of 46 states that won a lawsuit against the country’s cigarette manufacturers in 1998.
The tobacco companies were ordered to pay almost $10 billion to the 46 states, as reimbursement for the cost of medical care of people who had chronic diseases caused by smoking.
The cigarette companies acknowledged that they had targeted teenagers in their marketing campaigns and television commercials.
The legal settlement awarded Arkansas about $62 million a year, for 25 years. Some years we get more, some years we get less, but the amount is usually close to $60 million.
Since the legal agreement was signed in 1998, Arkansas received a total of about $1.2 billion.
Although many other states used the settlement revenue on general operations, Arkansas dedicated our share specifically for health care and medical research.
That’s because in the year 2000, voters approved an initiated act by a margin of almost two-to-one.
Some of the revenue goes to the state Medicaid program, which had spent millions for treatment of people with lung cancer, heart failure and other chronic diseases caused by smoking.
Proceeds from the tobacco settlement also go for health initiatives that benefit minorities and the elderly.
Research facilities, such as the Arkansas Biosciences Institute and the Public Health College at UAMS, receive a portion of the revenue.
Naturally, some of the proceeds pay for anti-smoking campaigns, especially for campaigns aimed at young people.
In 2017, revenue from the tobacco settlement money made it possible to shorten the waiting list for people with developmental disabilities who want home services.
Also in 2017, during a special session, Arkansas used proceeds from the tobacco settlement for a purpose other than health care.
The legislature voted to set aside about $105 million from the settlement into a long term reserve fund.
Building up the reserve fund has saved Arkansas millions in finance charges, because it enhanced our credit rating.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.