Instead of committing $2 million to a project the University of Kansas didn't request, state lawmakers should have used the money on something else more important to the school, a member of the state's Board of Regents said.
In its recently completed session, the Legislature approved an appropriations bill that cuts higher education funding by $66 million over two years, The Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/14G7Zl8) reported. Legislators also approved spending $2 million over the same span to create the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at Kansas University Medical Center.
"Stem cell research is good, but I don't know if that's what we need to do right now," said Ed McKechnie, a regent from Arcadia. "Might be a good idea to use that to offset other things."
The Board of Regents has criticized the spending cuts but conceded there was little they could do beyond ask Gov. Sam Brownback to make funding for higher education a priority next year.
While united in their disappointment with the cuts, the board members aren't unanimous in how they feel about the stem cell center. Regents Vice Chairman Fred Logan said he disagrees that the $2 million should be spent elsewhere.
"I'm all for the Legislature and governor putting money in," for the center, Logan said. He said world-class research on adult stem cells already is occurring at the university, and with the formation of the center "it now will be world-renown."
The new center will work on adult stem cell, cord blood and related stem cell research to provide therapies to patience and serve as a clearinghouse for physicians on cutting-edge treatments. It bans the use of embryonic stem cells or cells taken from aborted fetal tissue, research that is taboo to abortion opponents because it involves the destruction of the embryo.
Brownback is an ardent opponent of abortion and gave the bill his full backing. At first the Legislature didn't provide funding for the center, but the governor proposed a budget amendment using money from the Kansas Bioscience Authority to get it going.
Lawmakers changed that proposal to funding the center through general tax revenue.