By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — State officials are keeping quiet about who is responsible for failing to enforce a fee on small cigarette manufacturers, a decision that may result in steep budget cuts next year for a state agency responsible for supporting early childhood education.
Amanda Adkins, chairwoman for the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, announced the bleak news during a board meeting Sept. 26 in Topeka. The KCCTF is largely funded by dollars from a master settlement with major tobacco companies in 1998. But the settlement also stipulated that the 30 states involved in the litigation would enforce a $6 per carton fee on smaller cigarette manufacturers to keep them from undercutting larger companies.
Adkins said the agency usually expects $56 million annually. But the Topeka Capital-Journal reported that because the fee has not been sufficiently enforced, the tobacco companies are looking to “claw back” some of their settlement payments, which could result in a 75 percent decrease in funding for the KCCTF.
“If everything goes wrong, it could be that we end up with $12 million in funding instead of $56 million,” Adkins said.
Deputy Attorney General Don Brown said he couldn’t comment on specifics of the tobacco case because it’s in active arbitration. This means, for now, the face and reasoning behind the failure to enforce the $6 fee is under wraps.
But the news isn’t all bad for Adkins. She said Gov. Sam Brownback has pledged additional funding for her agency, in case the tobacco settlement money is severely reduced.
But, advancing the secrecy theme, the governor’s office is keeping its lips sealed as to how much additional money would be provided, and from where exactly it would come.
“Details of the Governor’s FY 2014 budget will be released in January when it’s presented to the Kansas Legislature for consideration,” said Press Secretary Sherriene Jones-Sontag.