The Associated Press
5/4/01 1:32 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Politicians are already coming up with ideas about how to use a $3.5 billion judgment the state won against Exxon Mobil, even though it may be years before any money changes hands.

Gov. Don Siegelman, who has been dealing with money shortages in the state budgets, was elated Friday when Montgomery Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey upheld the verdict against Exxon Mobil.

"A new day has dawned in Alabama," the Democratic governor said. "By upholding the jury's verdict, Judge McCooey has presented the people of Alabama with the opportunity to really change things for the better. We must be careful to invest this money wisely so we bring maximum benefit to our priorities, the education of our children and caring for our seniors."

Lt. Gov. Steve Windom and Republican legislative leaders earlier proposed putting one-fourth of the judgment into a trust fund called the Seniors First Trust Fund. The earnings off the trust fund would be used to help senior citizens pay for prescription drugs, Windom said.

Exxon plans to appeal the judgment to the Alabama Supreme Court, which would delay any payment to the state.