The Kentucky official who will decide whether the tobacco-producing state will join a nationwide settlement with cigarette companies is favoring the agreement.
Attorney General Ben Chandler said the only alternative for Kentucky to get something from the manufacturers would be to file its own lawsuit, and he would not be confident the state could win.
The settlement is in response to lawsuits by many states seeking restitution from the tobacco companies for the health-related costs for governments that are a result of smoking. Ohio agreed Wednesday to the settlement.
A decision for Kentucky might not come before Friday's noon deadline, said Jennifer Schaaf, a spokeswoman for Mr. Chandler. Meanwhile, Gov. Paul Patton wants an additional $2.2 billion added to Kentucky's $3.4 billion share of the settlement to protect tobacco growers and their communities.
"I realize this is a loose estimate, but someone has to establish a starting point for the purposes of beginning a dialogue," Mr. Patton said in a statement Wednesday evening.
He sent a letter making the proposal to the companies' chief negotiator.
The settlement's lone reference to farmers and tobacco-growing communities calls for a conference between political leaders from those areas and the companies to determine an amount.
Mr. Patton said the figure he is proposing is needed to offset an anticipated 30 percent drop in production because of the agreement. "I'm hoping to receive some indication that this proposal is in the ballpark of what the companies are considering as fair," Mr. Patton said.
Without that indication, he said, he cannot advise whether Kentucky should become part of the settlement.
"It's probably a bit premature to talk numbers," said Mark Smith, a spokesman for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. in Louisville.
Mr. Chandler said he has talked with the lead negotiator for the tobacco companies and been assured they intend to do something "substantial for the tobacco farmers."
But Mr. Chandler said he has no idea what that might involve. As much as 70 percent of Kentucky's $3.4 billion seems likely to be diverted back to the federal government to pay for Medicaid, Mr. Patton said Monday.
If that happens, Kentucky would stand to have nearly $993 million that it could use however it wanted - which would be roughly $40 million a year over the 25-year life of the settlement.