Hall Family pledge comes with huge price tag for taxpayers

09/06/2013 10:34 AM

09/06/2013 10:34 AM

The Hall Family Foundation and its chairman Donald J. Hall have announced a pledge

— or put another way, an inducement — of $75 million to get Jackson County voters to approve an $800 million sales tax increase this fall.

That’s clearly what Hall and his foundation want to do here: Induce voters to endorse a half-cent sales tax boost on Nov. 5 for medical research that can lead to cures and new ways of treating diseases.

The pledge specifically is to erect a four-story building at Children’s Mercy Hospital to help this so-called translational research.

Here’s one big problem with this approach:

If Hall and the Hall Family Foundation have $75 million available, why not give it

directly

for the translational medical research?

Why not give that $75 million, which is as much money as taxpayers will generate in the first two years of the tax, to hire the world-class researchers that tax supporters want to hire?

Why not spend some of that money on the multimillion-dollar labs for translational research?

On Wednesday Hall said his foundation’s money could be used for bricks and mortar, freeing up the public funds to be used to hire researchers.

However, until Wednesday, I don’t recall anyone at the few public meetings that have been held on this tax indicating there would be a big need for a $75 million building to help oversee the translational efforts.

The effort to push Kansas City into the next level of life sciences research has a big booster in the Hall Family Foundation. However, that’s been true for years; the foundation has been a positive part of this region’s effort to improve its research facilities.

You can be sure that this big gift has an unintended consequence: It could strengthen critics’ contention that one reason to oppose the public sales tax is that private foundations and the federal government properly have been financing medical research for decades.

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