When the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee heard testimony that the state budget was short $163.2 million, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols floated a few ideas for raising some of those dollars.
For instance, about $27 million could come from unclaimed lottery winnings, she said. And proposals to increase the cost of driver’s licenses and vehicle registration fees, if approved, could raise another $78.6 million.
The sale of the tobacco lawsuit settlement? That would raise about $50 million that could be used next year, she added.
The Jindal administration is pushing the idea of selling the settlement with Big Tobacco, which pays the state tens of millions of dollars each year, for about $700 million to paid over the next three years. Nichols has said the market conditions are favorable for the state.
Forty states settled lawsuits in November 1998, which meant the major cigarette manufacturers would pay out an estimated $246 billion during the first 25 years to address public health problems.
But Nichols acknowledged to senators that Louisiana House members have shown little appetite for the administration’s plan to sell the remainder of what the tobacco companies owe.
The House has not moved legislation that would allow the administration to cash in the remaining years of annual payments for up front payments.
Senate Finance Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said in an interview later that he hasn’t seen much interest in the idea among senators. “I don’t see the Legislature pushing to do that. It’s not very prudent use of the funds,” he said.