Monday, April 29, 2013

Brownback proposes using bioscience funds to pay for adult stem cell center at KU Medical Center

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday proposed using bioscience dollars to fund the startup and ongoing costs of the planned adult stem cell center at the Kansas University Medical Center.

Under Brownback's plan, $1.154 million would be diverted from the Kansas Bioscience Authority next year to create the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center and $754,500 per year to maintain the center after that.

The proposal was part of numerous spending adjustments Brownback has sent to the Legislature, which reconvenes May 8 to put together a budget during the wrapup session.

Last week, Brownback signed into law a measure establishing the adult stem cell center. KU did not ask for the bill, and legislators had failed to fund it.

The center is prohibited from using embryonic stem cells or cells taken from aborted fetal tissue. Abortion opponents, who supported the legislation, oppose human embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of the embryo.

Brownback said the center will put Kansas at the forefront of important research.

Under Brownback's plan, the center's funding would be deducted from the income tax revenue directed to the Kansas Bioscience Authority, which was established to grow the bioscience sector in the Kansas economy. KBA funding has been capped at $35 million annually in recent years.

In his message to legislators, Brownback also renewed his call to provide $10 million to help construct KU Medical Center's proposed health education building to train more doctors and nurses and to reject cuts to higher education.

The House has proposed an across-the-board cut to higher education of 4 percent, or $29.2 million, while the Senate recommended a 2 percent cut. The House plan also contains a cap on salaries that KU officials say would hurt the university’s ability to retain and recruit top-level faculty.

Much of Brownback's budget recommendation will depend on whether his fellow Republicans approve his plan to keep the state sales tax at 6.3 percent. Under current law, the sales tax is scheduled to fall to 5.7 percent on July 1.

"I look forward to working with the Legislature to craft tax and budget plans that support a balanced budget that funds our state's core responsibilities, provides the state a strong ending balance and continues our state on the glide path to a zero state income tax," Brownback said.

In his budget plan, Brownback also recommends borrowing $202 million in additional funds to secure the federal National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, to be built in Manahattan, and provide $16 million in state funds over two years to reduce waitings lists for services for those with disabilities.