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PA Filling Budget Holes With Borrowed Tobacco Funds

FILE - This July 17, 2012, file photo, shows Marlboro cigarettes displayed. Cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc. reports financial earnings on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- Pennsylvania is going to borrow against its Tobacco Settlement Fund to fill in last year's deficit and finish this year's budget 

The Wolf administration confirmed Tuesday that it will tap into the stream of money states have received from tobacco companies since the 1990s.

The borrowing will give the commonwealth money to balance its books up front, and will then be paid back over several decades.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority approved the plan Tuesday. However, Budget Secretary Randy Albright noted that it's not finalized yet.

"The resolution today simply allows staff at the CFA to put together a professional team, and go out and ascertain in the market what the most cost-effective financing plan should be," Albright said.

Currently, the Tobacco Fund allocates nearly 16 million dollars annually for smoking cessation programs, according to the American Lung Association.

A spokesman for Wolf said the borrowing won't affect that money.

But the association's Deb Brown said she's still worried.

"Unless they're going to take money from somewhere else and invest it in these programs at the same level, it has to impact the programs," she said. "There's no other way to look at it."

The administration didn't elaborate on how it would keep the money flowing.

The tobacco plan was one of two borrowing proposals being considered to fill in budget holes. The other would have securitized profits from the state-run liquor industry.