Less than a month before she left her post, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Thursday that her office will transfer $140 million in opioid settlement funds to the state’s general revenue to allow legislators to decide how to spend it.
“We have recognized that over the last six years, while we know enforcement and we know education, we want to make sure that the legislative branch is the one using the $140 million in opioid lawsuit settlements,” Rutledge, who was elected in November to become lieutenant governor next month, said.
At a news conference at her office in Little Rock to announce the funds transfer, Rutledge said over the last six years of her tenure, her office has secured approximately $430 million in opioid settlements, with more than $140 million going to Arkansas.
Shannon Halijan, deputy attorney general of the Public Protection Department, said the office has approximately $20 million of the settlement money on hand, with the rest due in the coming days or weeks.
She said the office is also working out the details of settlements with several major institutions like Walmart and Walgreens, meaning some of the funds will be received by Attorney General-elect Tim Griffin’s office.
Rutledge said she hadn’t discussed the transfer of funds with Griffin.
After her announcement, Griffin, who like Rutledge is a Republican, said he hadn’t decided what to do with the funds.
“Upon taking office, I will conduct a comprehensive review and assessment of the use of settlement funds, including spending on television commercials and public service announcements that have far exceeded historic norms,” Griffin, the state’s current lieutenant governor, said in a statement.
“This review is essential to ensure transparency and restore the public trust in the use of settlement funds. Second, I will act in accordance with