JEFFERSON CITY - For the Missouri legislature, money doesn't grow on trees; it grows on tobacco leaves.
Both the House and the Senate passed a bill Wednesday to use tobacco settlement money to finance a budget shortfall. The legislation now goes to the governor.
After an hour of heated debate, the House passed the legislation by a vote of 87-51 and sent it to the Senate. They dispensed with the debate and the vote within minutes.
"As President Pro Tem, there is a tradition in the Senate that you defer to the appropriations committee, which puts in countless hours," said Sen. Peter Kinder. "They look into this with copious detail and they think that this is the way to go."
The bill would use $126 million of Missouri's estimated $6 billion in tobacco settlement funds to cover the state's current budget deficit.
Many legislators found themselves violating campaign promises to use the tobacco money for health care and smoking cessation. Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, changed his position and voted for the measure.
Kinder says he thinks the governor will sign the bill. "He's getting the version he wants and he'll sign it. That would be my expectation."
The money now goes into the general revenue fund.