Interpretation of Tobacco Settlement Ruling Begins in PA

Mar 8, 2013

The fate of a program receiving money from the state’s tobacco settlement is unknown, as are the Corbett administration’s next steps on how to allocate the special funding.

A judge deemed unconstitutional two state laws that diverted tobacco settlement money away from adultBasic, the commonwealth’s bygone health insurance program for adults. It was shut down in 2011 after Governor Corbett said it was no longer affordable.

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said before House lawmakers Thursday that one area now called into question is how to fund a program that administration aides say got all the money that stopped going to adultBasic – an entitlement program providing medical assistance for certain Pennsylvanians with disabilities.

“You know, it’s an important program and we don’t want to be in a position where we’re jeopardizing the people in that program,” Zogby said.

He added the administration still hasn’t interpreted the implications of the Commonwealth Court ruling.

“So that’s something that we’re going to be doing – that the governor’s going to be doing – in the next many days,” said Zogby.

Administration aides suggested the process will take more than a few days, and will have to be negotiated as part of the budget.

The court ruling doesn’t say adultBasic must be reestablished – just that the laws diverting money that otherwise would have gone to adultBasic were unconstitutional. In fact, the ruling even gives the Legislature leeway to divvy up the tobacco settlement money as they see fit as long as they pass a measure allowing such a move.