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Legislative Inaction Costs Missouri Millions in Tobacco Settlement

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Missouri battled tobacco companies to regain money lost for treating residents suffering from tobacco related illnesses, now the state will have to refund part of that money.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --  Missouri battled tobacco companies to regain money lost for treating residents suffering from tobacco related illnesses, now the state will have to refund part of that money.

The refund all hinges on the ruling of a three-judge panel that said Missouri failed to "diligently enforce tobacco laws in 2003." That failure will cost the state millions.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says the Missouri Legislature failed time and time again to pass a piece of legislation passed in 45 other states.

Each year since 2002, the state of Missouri has received more than $130 million from the 1998 master settlement agreement with tobacco companies. Now the state will be paying part of that money back

"The figure I heard was $70 million," says Dr. Jim Blaine, a vocal proponent of the tobacco settlement. "The original attorneys general tobacco settlement, in which Missouri participated, was for partial reimbursement to the tax payers for the healthcare dollars spent on Medicaid-related illnesses caused by tobacco."

But the purpose of the money was never fully realized

'The Centers for Disease Control recommended to the state of Missouri that they spend at least $72 million of the tobacco settlement annually to fully fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Of that amount of recommendation, basically, Missouri has spent nothing."

Now Dr. Blaine says the legislature has failed the state again.

"They've been warned and warned and warned."

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says the failure of legislature over the past decade to pass two key pieces of legislation, including something called "allocable share release," gave the tobacco companies what they needed to get money back.

In a letter to Missouri State Senator Kurt Shaefer dated January 2013, Koster wrote "despite the persistent pleas of two attorneys general over ten years, Missouri remains the only state in the nation not to enact ASR repeal....The office of attorney general advised your predecessors every year for the last decade that their legislative inaction could eventually harm the state," costing the state millions.

The spring 2014 payment will be cut, virtually, in half.

"Unfortunately, our state leaders let us down," says Dr. Blaine. He adds that had the state passed the Prop B tobacco tax, it would have cleared up the legislative issues that allowed this to happen.

Twenty states settled this issue with the tobacco companies late last year.
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