Gov. Barbour Talks About Partnership Lawsuit

Governor Barbour stepped off a plane in Gulfport to welcome Rusty Quave to the republican party. Shortly after the celebration, the governor answered questions about yearly tobacco payments to the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.

"The fact of the matter is, the law is the law," the governor said. "And this is about the constitution and what is legal."

In December, 2000, then Attorney General Mike Moore got a chancery court order, so $20 million a year of tobacco money could go to the Partnership.

Governor Barbour had the state file a lawsuit, arguing that that order was unconstitutional. He thought that money should be returned to Mississippi, so it could be used to help bail out the financially troubled Medicaid system.

"The issue is that only the legislature under our constitution has the authority to appropriate money," Barbour said. "A local court order doesn't have that authority."

Two weeks ago, Moore used teens at a lobbypalooza event to rally for tobacco programs -- and against the governor.

"There is one person in the state of Mississippi who wants to stop the progress we have made. His name is Haley Barbour," Moore said to the teens on February 2.

During this interview 13 days later, Gov. Barbour had no comment about Moore's tactics.

"This is about the law. This isn't about people," the governor said. "If you let one local court do it for this favor, when is the next one, and how much is it going to be?"

In the governor's mind, the law is clear. To him, the $20 million is Mississippi's money, and it belongs to state programs like Medicaid.

"The legislature has a perfect opportunity, if they choose to, when they get control of this money and they appropriate it through the constitutional process, they may choose to spend some of it on anti-tobacco advertising," the governor said. "I think that's fine."

State legislative leaders aren't giving their blessing to the governor's efforts.  Last week, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck said she stood by a decision lawmakers made years ago, when they didn't challenge the money going to The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.

"This Senate has supported Mike Moore with his efforts in the Partnership," the Lt. Gov. said last week.