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Deadline Approaches for State to Divide Tobacco Settlement

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RALEIGH — The deadline to divide North Carolina's share of the tobacco settlement is quickly approaching. A vote was expected Wednesday in theState House, but a last minute change of heart for many lawmakers left the $5 billion plan in limbo.

Quite a few doubts popped up Wednesday. Democrats realized they were not going to have enough votes, so they pushed the debate and vote back.

Last week,tractors rolled up to the state capitol. Wednesday, farmers waited and talked with their legislators.

In the bill that is on the table, farmers would get 25 percent of thetobacco settlement. Another 25 percent would go to a health trust, and 50 percent would go to a foundation to help tobacco dependent communities.

"We don't think the 25 percent level is adequate, and there are a lot of questions about whether we can access any money in the foundation," said farmer Steve Troxler.

Senator Tony Randis co-sponsoring the bill. He says the foundation could directly and indirectly help farmers.

"It could finance chillers to allow them to do more in produce. It can sponsor research atN.C. Statefor additional products or different ways to produce products," said Rand.

At the same time, Rand says the foundation would aid tobacco dependent communities that are dying while the state's urban areas are thriving.

But, some legislators still have their doubts.

"There are a lot of us who are concerned about giving the authority to appropriate funds to some foundation that has not yet been formed," saidRepresentative Toby Fitch.

Legislators are working toward a Monday deadline.


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