OK Treasurer's Office Asks for More Money to Manage Tobacco Fund

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Oklahoma's tobacco settlement trust fund has grown to $300 million, and the state treasurer's office needs more money to continue managing the fund, the treasurer's representative said Tuesday.

We're managing what is currently a $300 million fund, said James Wilbanks, director of revenue and fiscal policy for the treasurer's office. It's not something that just gets done by itself.

The trust fund was created by the voters in 2000 in order to specify how Oklahoma's share of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies should be handled. The total of payments over 25 years was projected to be in excess of $206 billion, and payments will continue as long as cigarettes are sold.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham, who chairs the trust fund's board of investors, said the fund has produced more than $8 million for public health programs during the past five years. With the most recent deposit of more than $56 million from the tobacco industry in April, Oklahoma's fund balance now exceeds $300 million.

On Tuesday, Wilbanks presented a budget request to the board that showed about eight employees of the treasurer's office have a hand in management of the fund, performing duties ranging from accounting to record keeping, auditing and providing a good set of eyes in evaluating proposals and operations decisions.

Though the treasurer's office contracted with the board last to manage the fund for $85,000 annually, Wilbanks said projections show the agency's cost of managing the fund will top $97,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June. …