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Judge Allows Tennessee to Use Tobacco Funds for Budget

A federal judge has refused a request to set aside a $102 million tobacco settlement payment to help Tennessee balance its cash-strapped budget.

Attorneys for two Tennessee smokers asked that this year's payment be held in an escrow account until a larger lawsuit over tobacco-related injuries was resolved.

In denying that request, the judge agreed with government officials who said if the state didn't receive this year's payment, it could lead to a fiscal emergency.

The smokers said people treated for tobacco-related injuries under the state's health care program for the poor and uninsured should be compensated before the state gets any settlement money.