JEFFERSON CITY - The University of Missouri System's efforts to net $1 billion from the tobacco settlement may be in vain, a system spokesperson said.
"We may never see a nickel of it," said Dave Lendt, system spokesperson. The university system wants to be prepared, he said, to give a proposal if that time comes.
Even after Missouri receives its $6.7 billion portion of the settlement, the courts would have to decide if the money falls under the Hancock Amendment said, Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County.
The Hancock Amendment is a constitutional cap on state revenue. If the state collects more than the cap, the extra is reimbursed to taxpayers.
Sen. Steve Ehlmann, R-St. Charles, said if the court decides the money doesn't go back to the tax payers then the state legislature will decide how to spend the money.
If the courts decide not to refund the money, the university system must convince the legislature to give them the money.
Lendt said because the system has the only public research facilities in Missouri they have much to offer. "We could do a lot of good with $1 billion dollars," he said.
Although the specifics of the proposal aren't decided on, Lendt said the system would propose to use a big chunk of the money for health related areas, including University Hospital.
Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, who has the Rolla campus in her district, said she agrees that the money should be spent on health.
"Tobacco is a gateway drug," she said. The probability of taking more drugs for young adults who smoke is greater, she said.
Ehlmann said he hopes the money is refunded to taxpayers. But if the legislature must appropriate the money, he said he thinks the money doesn't have to go only to health care.
"Let's use if for everything," he said. "I would give some to the parents whose tuition keeps going up every year," he said.
Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, said it was too early for him to make any decisions about where the money should go, but thinks the system planning ahead is wise.
"I think it's appropriate," he said. "We expect to hear from several medical institution and academic people."
As for the system, Lendt said he hopes to have the proposal ready by late this fall.