House bill to help fund UK cancer research center clears Senate committee

02/26/2015 12:42 PM

FRANKFORT — A bill which would authorize the General Assembly to help fund a new medical research center at the University of Kentucky was unanimously passed on Thursday by the Senate Committee on Appropriations and Revenue.

House Bill 298, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, would authorize the state to appropriate $132.5 million, or half of the cost for the construction of a new research building. The university will come up with half of the construction and all other associated costs.

The research facility would focus on diseases which are affecting a growing number of Kentuckians such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, substance abuse and obesity.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto says that the school has run out of research space which could affect the advances made at places like the Markey Cancer Center. Capilouto also pointed out the current and future economic benefits of the research centers at the university.

“Five hundred and eighty million dollars, 8,000 jobs and more than $21 million in state and local taxes,” Capilouto said. “With this (new) building, we’ll be able to augment this by $116 million of economic impact, sixteen hundred jobs and nearly $6 million more in state and local taxes.”

Capilouto says the university is ready to move swiftly if the bill is passed and has preliminary plans in place.

Once the bill is passed, Capilouto will get permission from the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees to hire an architect, finalize plans over several months and be ready to break ground within the year.

Capilouto says that the university also knows how it will raise its share of the cost.

“Respect and trust of philanthropists, who, I think will want to be a part of this and secondly, we have a talented group of faculty, and we have more faculty that want to be a part of what we’re doing at the University of Kentucky,” Capilouto said. “They compete for grants that are funded largely by the federal government and some foundations.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, who first called for the legislation before the session began, told committee members that a new research facility would help the General Assembly assist the state in helping it become a place that everyone wants it to be.

“I believe that this facility will kind of be at the forefront of making a healthier population, a more educated population and a population which will be able to go into the workforce,” Stivers said.

Capilouto said splitting the costs of university construction projects is a new reality for universities in the commonwealth.

“This is a way, I think, we have to earn our way forward in these current economic times,” Capilouto said. “It’s different than it was a decade or two decades ago. We have to accept that reality.”

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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