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Biomedical facilities funding debated

From the Daily:

By Jake Grovum

Even with a projected $935 million budget deficit for the state on the horizon, the University is asking for nearly $520 million between its capital bonding request and biomedical research program.

Many have hailed it as a potential boost to the economy - creating jobs and expanding the biomedical industry in Minnesota - but some take issue with the project's cost.

With the budget deficit looming, funds are tight at the Capitol, Chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Policy and Finance Division Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said.

"To me it's a question of fairness," Rukavina said at a Capital Investment Finance Division hearing last week. "I ask for a lot of things at Christmas too, but I don't get them."

Between funding for the stadium, another University medical project in Rochester and the biomedical research plan, Rukavina's committee would carry $70 million per biennium in the higher education committee, funds "that could go for a lot of other things," he said.

At the hearing last week, a number of representatives from research firms like Medtronic spoke in support of the bill on the University's behalf, but they also stand to gain from the project.

Under the legislation, the University would be required to make the labs available to research firms for a fee, and would forfeit patent rights to discoveries that "do not involve its innovative intellectual contributions."

With the cost of the project taking center stage of late, and private interests set to potentially benefit, the lack of private funds directly involved in the program could be an issue.

The Capital Investment Finance Committee included the request in the bonding bill, and the House is expected to debate it on Thursday.

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