Archive for Thursday, March 28, 2013

Editorial: Political priorities

State legislators have gone off on another tangent with an unfunded mandate for the Kansas University Medical Center.

March 28, 2013


The capricious Kansas Legislature has struck again with a bill ordering the Kansas University Medical Center to create a new adult stem cell research center.

The center was the brain child of legislators, who even gave it a name: the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. It wasn’t part of any KU request, but legislators think such a center would be good for the state. However, the center is not so important to them that they are willing to allocate any state funds to get it started.

A fiscal note on the bill estimates it will cost about $1.1 million to renovate a lab and hire the initial staff and about $750,000 annually to operate the center. Legislators allocated no funding to cover those costs, indicating that KU could solicit grants, gifts and contributions to fund the center.

Legislators seem to be blissfully unaware that KU already is actively tapping every charitable source it can come up with for a variety of existing efforts, especially its newly designated National Cancer Institute. The search for private funds is certain to become even more intense if budget cuts proposed by legislators are successful. The Senate has approved a 2 percent budget cut for KU and the Medical Center, but, in conference committee discussions, the House is sticking to a 4 percent across-the-board budget cut for all state universities, as well as the Med Center.

Supporters say it’s entirely appropriate for legislators to mandate the stem cell center — even without funding. Because of “political questions,” said Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, “The stem cell center would possibly never be built if not for the direction of the state.”

Political priorities apparently are trumping practicality in this instance. There is no way the KU Medical Center can absorb a 2 percent or 4 percent budget cut and create a new stem cell research center without shortchanging other important goals — including some specifically mandated by legislators, such as the cancer center and graduating more doctors and nurses to serve the state.

The bill creating the center has passed both the House and Senate, and although a House amendment will spur some further discussion, it seems likely the measure is headed to Gov. Brownback, who has said he supports the plan.

So much for KU trying to plan or focus its efforts on key priorities. Legislators have some priorities of their own.


Bob Forer 5 years ago

So buy a Gilbert Chemistry set, print some letterhead, appoint a department head, and call it a done deal.

Mark Pickerel 5 years ago

That last quote from Susan Concannon had my eyes rolling so far up into my head that I went blind.

TalkSense 5 years ago

Read the text of SB 199. Not only is this center supposed to operate on "grants, gifts, contributions or bequests," but the director "shall remit all moneys so received to the state treasurer. . Upon receipt of each such remittance, the state treasurer shall deposit the entire amount in the state treasury to the credit of the midwest stem cell therapy center fund." What private donor would contribute to this project, knowing their gift will go into the state treasury, not KU Endowment? Once in the treasury, such gifts could be fair game for a future Legislature searching for miscellaneous funds to sweep up. To be fair, giving directly to KU Endowment is at least permitted by the bill, so why involve the treasury at all?

oldbaldguy 5 years ago

Idiots at work. What happened to the Democrats?

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years ago

As voters, we collectively eliminated the moderate Republicans the Democrats created coalitions with, and we reduced the number of Democrats in our legislature to the point the Republicans now have super-majorities in both houses.

If these are idiots at work, it is our fault as a state for electing them.

Larry Sturm 5 years ago

The Kansa legislature is drinking Koch brothers tea and it is bad.

Brian Laird 5 years ago

If there were plenty of money available for this line of research, then the researchers would already be applying for it.

jonas_opines 5 years ago

Poor Toe. He'd love to be outraged by this unnecessary and poorly-thought-out government plan, but it's being proposed by Republicans so he can't be.

Lynn Grant 5 years ago

The headline should read "Partisan political priorities". Another example of unfunded mandates. The majority of the legislature doesn't like them but doesn't mind doing it to other entities. Remember next year that an extreme majority of the craziness in the legislature is directly related to the extreme majority of its members.

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