- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas lawmakers have approved a bill that would transfer about $105 million in unused tobacco settlement money to the state’s long-term reserve fund to be tapped for budget shortfalls.

The Arkansas House passed the measure 70-24 Wednesday during a special legislative session. The Senate had already approved the proposal, which now awaits Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature.

Hutchinson and other supporters of the bill say strengthening the reserve fund is needed to improve the state’s bond rating.

Opponents like Democratic Rep. Michael John Gray say the transfer would circumvent a law voters approved in 2000 that directs the Arkansas Healthy Century Trust Fund toward health programs.

Gray says he understands the motivation to have a strong reserve fund, but that lawmakers should not go against what Arkansas voters approved.

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