State Question 814 results: Oklahoma voters reject TSET changes
Mere months after Oklahomans voted to expand Medicaid, they rejected an option to help pay for the state’s share of the expansion.
Oklahoma voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly opposed State Question 814 to redirect a portion of Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust funds to help pay for the state’s 10% share of Medicaid expansion.
SQ 814 asked voters to amend Oklahoma’s constitution to reduce from 75% to 25% the amount of tobacco settlement funds going to TSET. Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature referred SQ 814 to the ballot at the end of the 2020 legislative session.
TSET uses the interest earnings off its $1.3 billion trust to fund tobacco prevention programs, cancer research and other initiatives to improve Oklahomans’ health.
The measure would have only covered a fraction of the state’s costs to expand Medicaid. Early estimates indicate Oklahoma’s 10% share, which is matched by 90% from the federal government, will cost about $164 million annually. SQ 814 may have brought in, at best, about $50 million annually.
Many Oklahoma voters seemed confused about the question. And while Gov. Kevin Stitt and many Republican legislators were asking Oklahomans to support the measure, there was no widespread campaign to inform and persuade voters in favor of SQ 814.
On the other side of the question, a group of health care associations formed a coalition to oppose the measure.
Oklahoma voters decided to protect the state's investment in tobacco cessation and prevention programs and double down on TSET's mission to improve public health in Oklahoma, said Thomas Larson, the agency's spokesman.
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"In 2000, Oklahoma voters created TSET with the constitutional mandate to support programs and services to improve the health of Oklahomans," he said. "Once again, voters have again endorsed TSET’s work as the nation’s only constitutional trust that uses lawsuit settlement money from Big Tobacco to improve the health of our citizens.
"TSET remains committed to fulfilling that constitutional mandate by addressing Oklahoma’s leading causes of death — tobacco use and obesity — as well as funding lifesaving cancer research, placing physicians in rural Oklahoma and supporting health initiatives in communities and schools across our state."
Two decades ago, Oklahoma voters passed a state question to create TSET to protect annual payments from the 1998 master settlement agreement between the tobacco industry and 46 states.
Of those who voted Tuesday, 58% opposed SQ 814, and 41% supported the measure.