Merit Scholars Get Financial Awards?

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State officials have announced the winners of this year's Merit Scholarships, but according to the state budget office, students will not receive the money if Proposal 4 passes.

Supporters of Proposal 4 - which will determine how tobacco settlement money will be distributed - say the focus of the initiative should not be the Merit Scholarships. They say the intention of the tobacco settlement is for the funds to be used to prevent smoking and to improve health care.

Regardless, some Lansing students say they're upset they might not receive the scholarship they worked hard to achieve. The scholarships pay for $2,500 of a student's in-state college tuition.

Supporters say legislators should be able to find a financial source to continue funding the Merit Scholarship program, but state budget officials say it's not likely and would require increased taxes. Extended Web Coverage

Michigan Proposal 4

  • Official Ballot Wording: A proposed constitutional amendment to reallocate the "Tobacco Settlement Revenue" received by the state from cigarette manufacturers.

  • The proposed constitutional amendment would:
    • Annually allocate on a permanent basis 90 percent, approximately $297 million, of "tobacco settlement revenue" received by state cigarette manufacturers.

    • Give $151.8 million to nonprofit hospitals, licensed nursing homes, licensed hospices, nurse practitioners, school-linked health centers and Healthy Michigan Foundation.

    • Allocate $102.3 million to fund programs to reduce tobacco use, Health and Aging Research Development Initiative, Tobacco Free Futures Fund, Council of Michigan Foundations and Nurses Scholarship Program.

    • Give $42.9 million to the Elder Prescription Drug Program.

    • Guarantee recipients funding at 2001 appropriation levels plus additional state funds on an escalating basis for nonprofit hospitals, licensed nursing homes, licensed hospices, and nurse practitioners.

  • Proposal 4 specifies that beginning Jan. 1, 2003, no less than 90 percent of the tobacco settlement monies will be "dedicated to improving the quality of health of the residents of the state."

  • The proposed amendment states that the monies are intended for programs that educate people about smoking, research cures for cancer, provide prescription coverage for elderly residents and provide health care to people suffering from tobacco-related illnesses.

  • The other 10 percent of the settlement money will go to the state's general fund, to be spent according to decisions made by the legislature.

Source: (The Bay County Web site)