It was as if Louisiana hit the jackpot. A little over two years ago, the state settled a $4.4 billion lawsuit against four major U.S. cigarette companies. Youve probably heard lawmakers and the media refer to this as the tobacco settlement.

As a result of the tobacco settlement, cigarette manufacturers agreed to pay Louisiana about $175 million a year for the next 25 years, and Louisiana voters agreed to put three-fourths of the money into the Millennium Trust Fund for education, health care and TOPS.

Theres just one little glitch.

The amount of money we get from the tobacco companies each year depends on how many cigarettes they sell each year in the United States. Cigarette sales have been declining since 1981, which is great news for the health of our citizens, but bad news for the Millennium Trust Fund. If sales continue to go down or one day stop altogether, so do our annual payments.

What would you do if you hit the jackpot, but your winnings were based on the tobacco industrys ability to pay you each year for the next quarter of a century? Wouldnt you want at least some of your money up front? And, wouldnt you invest that money so that youd know it would be there in the future?

Right now, Louisiana has the opportunity to do just that. We can sell part of our tobacco settlement to financially-sound and proven, national investors for cash. In fact, if we sell just 40% of the settlement, we could get up to $750 million to put into the Millennium Trust Fund. Thats a lot of money for education, health care and TOPS. We did it with the state’s education trust fund (the Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund) 15 years ago, and its working for our citizens future today.

One good thing about selling only a portion of the settlement is well continue to receive annual payments from 60% of it (if Big Tobacco stays in business). If cigarette companies are still around in 2023, well still get our yearly check from them until then, most of which will go into trust too.

Selling part of the tobacco settlement and putting the proceeds into the Millennium Trust Fund is a good way for the state to hedge its bets against a risky industry. It will also put millions of dollars to work immediately for the health and education of our children and grandchildren.