Governor Frank Keating and legislative leaders have appointed State Treasurer Robert Butkin to lead a special task force on the management of Oklahoma's tobacco settlement. The group will make recommendations on how the state should best administer its $2.3 billion settlement.
"Oklahoma has never faced a situation like this before and it's important to have a truly gifted public servant like Robert Butkin advising the executive and legislative branches on the best ways for Oklahoma to invest the tobacco settlement funds," said Governor Keating.
"The trust and credibility that Robert Butkin has built in his two terms as State Treasurer, as well as his background in financial matters, are important qualities that will assist us in making this important decision," said House Speaker Loyd Benson (D-Frederick).
"Because of his expertise in this area, we felt that Treasurer Butkin would be the best person to advise the state on this issue. We're looking forward to his recommendations," said Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor (D-Claremore).
Oklahoma is scheduled to receive annual payments of tobacco settlement funds over the next 25 years, but no formal decisions have been made about how the money should be managed or invested. State leaders are asking Treasurer Butkin and his panel to give them some direction on that question, namely whether the state should "securitize" all or part of its settlement money.
"Securitization" would let the state receive its tobacco settlement money immediately in a lump sum.
"There are many ideas and opinions on how best to utilize these funds. It's important to have a panel of financial experts review this complex situation. I'm looking forward to reviewing the recommendations of Treasurer Butkin and members of the task force. I know they will recommend a solid plan," said Governor Keating.
"Utilization of the tobacco settlement funds is a unique opportunity for the state of Oklahoma and having a panel of financial experts look at different possibilities will allow the Legislature to make a better decision," said Speaker Benson.
"We want to make sure that we're getting the best possible deal for the taxpayers of Oklahoma. It's important for us to explore any and all options," said Senator Taylor.
In addition to Treasurer Butkin, the Governor and legislative leaders have appointed three private citizens to serve on the task force. They are:
The task force has been asked to complete its examination and make recommendations in the 30 days. The state leaders are hoping to act on the recommendations before this year's legislative session concludes at the end of May.