Budget & Tax, Health Care

Money in the bank: TSET continues to grow

August 28, 2018

Curtis Shelton

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) was created in 2000 to improve the health of Oklahomans, specifically as it relates to cancer and cardiovascular disease. TSET’s endowment has grown to over $1 billion thanks to the annual payments from the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) as well as investment earnings.

A new post from the McCarville Report quotes the Oklahoma Treasurer discussing investment earnings certified by TSET’s board of investors. “The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Board of Investors has preliminarily certified $64.8 million in Fiscal Year 2018 investment earnings for prevention and reduction of tobacco use and other health issues, State Treasurer Ken Miller announced today.”

This $64.8 million would be the highest earnings ever recorded by TSET, due in large part from the substantial economic growth over the past year.

The article also points out, “On June 30, the end of the fiscal year, the endowment contained more than $1.2 billion. The earnings are used by appointed members of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Board of Directors to fund grants and programs to improve health.”

As the endowment has expanded, so have TSET’s programs and areas of focus. The efficacy of some of these programs has come into question. Just because TSET has a lot of money does not mean it is spending it well to benefit the health of Oklahomans. OCPA has highlighted two dubious programs: Free The Night and a billboard advertising campaign.

If TSET continues its current growth rate, the endowment will reach $2.5 billion by the mid-2020’s. To put that in context, total gross receipts collected by the state were $12 billion in fiscal year 2018. While safeguarding the MSA payments and focusing those dollars on improving health outcomes for Oklahomans was an admirable goal, the time has come to consider whether TSET should continue to grow or if future MSA payments could be put to better use.