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Report: Va.'s Tobacco Commission Needs Work

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The watchdog agency says the Tobacco Indemnification Commission, which formed 12 years ago to help revitalize the Commonwealth's fiscally stressed tobacco regions, has had a positive impact, but it also says the group could be much more efficient and have a much greater impact.

The panel uses tobacco company funds that are provided continuously to help the regions and indemnify growers for losses.

In a recent review of the TIC's activities, Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found positive economic impacts for such projects as high-speed Internet access, distance learning, and workforce centers.

But it also found that a majority of projects had few metrics, one third had limited potential, and outdated criteria made such areas as Martinsville, with its high jobless rate, ineligible for funds.

JLARC members, including Senator Edd Houck, called for changes:

"Just doling out public funds for things that are all laudable, and sound pretty good, and that I'm sure people asked for," he says, "but are not really changing that overall economic dynamic in those two parts of the state. I think it is unacceptable.

The tobacco panel has begun some reforms. and lawmakers may also need to modify state criteria.

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