Governor’s recommended budget includes $75M for KU Cancer Center

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

The Kansas Statehouse in Topeka is pictured on Dec. 20, 2023.

The University of Kansas’ top legislative priority received a boost on Thursday, as Gov. Laura Kelly has included $75 million of funding for a new cancer research center in her recommended budget.

The new cancer building would be located on the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kan. KU leaders have said the funding is their top legislative priority of the session. The new research center is expected to elevate the amount of cancer research, cancer trials and advanced treatments that the KU Medical Center can provide in the future.

KU has said it has private donors ready to match the $75 million in state funding. The new cancer center building would come on the heels of KU Medical Center being designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. That designation is the highest given by the institute, and is the same designation that well-known cancer treatment campuses such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the MD Cancer Center in Houston have, for example.

The Kansas Board of Regents in November approved a $250 million budget for the cancer center building. As proposed, the project would provide about 212,000 square feet of research space. The $250 million project, though, is only about half of what KU leaders contemplate for the entire cancer center building.

KU expects the university’s health system — which operates the KU hospital and others — also will spend about $250 million to double the size of the building. The health system portion of the center would focus on new patient care areas, while the university portion of the building would focus on research spaces.

Kelly’s decision to include the $75 million in her recommended budget does not make the funding a done deal. Legislators still must approve the funding. KU Chancellor Douglas Girod and other KU leaders, though, have said they are optimistic that legislators will be supportive of the project.

KU already has announced that more than $140 million in funding for the center has been raised through federal funding and private donors. If the state funding and matching dollars come through, Girod previously has said construction could begin in the summer or fall.

Other details from Kelly’s recommended budget include:

• $230 million in funding for higher education, including KU and the other Regents universities. Among that funding is a $14 million increase for need-based aid for students who can’t afford the full cost of tuition at the universities. Kelly said the $230 million would mark the highest level of funding her administration has provided for higher education.

• $56 million to expand child care options for parents who are in the workforce. The money includes $30 million to construct new child care facilities across the state. It also funds a $5 million pilot program in northwest Kansas for using public-private partnerships to increase child care options in rural Kansas.

• Provides full funding for the general operations of Kansas public schools. The governor’s office said in a press release that the plan “puts Kansas on track to fully fund special education within five years so that every district has the statutorily required resources to educate all students.” Officials with Lawrence Public Schools have said the funding of special education is a major priority, as the Lawrence district has diverted millions in general education funding in order to cover the costs of special education programs that the district provides.

• $1.3 billion for one-time projects that include a new Hutchinson Correctional Facility to replace the prison there that was built in 1912. The one-time projects also include funding for upgrades to the Kansas Highway Patrol Training Academy and $500 million to retire state debt early.

The budget also includes a tax plan that the Democratic governor introduced earlier in the week, plus a proposal to expand Medicaid. Both proposals are expected to be heavily debated in the Legislature, which has strong Republican majorities in both houses. The tax cuts would eliminate the state tax on Social Security income and also would increase the exemption homeowners receive from state property taxes. Conservatives in both houses, though, have been pushing for a flat income tax system, which has been opposed by the governor.


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