House committee approves bill granting $132.5 million in bonds for new UK research center

02/10/2015 11:44 AM

FRANKFORT — The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved a bill on Tuesday authorizing $132.5 million in bonds for a new research facility at the University of Kentucky.

UK President Eli Capilouto said the university requested the multipurpose research project as part of its biennial budget proposal last year, and the school would shoulder more than half the overall costs of the project.

House Bill 298, which passed the committee on a 27-3 vote, would not only authorize $132.5 million in bond sales, but also $132.5 million in restricted state funds and $5.5 million for debt service for the university.

Capilouto said the center would focus on reducing preventable deaths, and he highlighted the facility’s projected economic impact — 1,623 new jobs and $116.2 million generated in the Lexington area — as an incentive for lawmakers’ support.

“Other researchers want to be part of what’s happening at the University of Kentucky,” he said, noting the university is conducting 331 research projects with grants totaling $349 million. “We’re just out of quality space.”

Those who voted against HB 298 — Democratic Reps. Larry Clark, Reginald Meeks and Jim Wayne — cited concerns with granting such a project outside the two-year budget cycle.

Other universities have not been afforded similar opportunities once state budgeting is complete, said Meeks, D-Louisville.

“I think it’s up to us to decide whether we’re going to stick to our word or not,” he said before casting his dissenting vote.

The project has bipartisan backing in the General Assembly. Senate President Robert Stivers has voiced his support for a new UK research facility this session.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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