Heineman, NU reject idea of $40M more in state funding for cancer center - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:10 am
Heineman, NU reject idea of $40M more in state funding for cancer center

LINCOLN — Gov. Dave Heineman and University of Nebraska officials objected to a proposal to put $40 million more of state money into the university's cancer center project in Omaha.

Two Omaha lawmakers put forth the idea Friday, saying they want to replace the contributions promised by the City of Omaha and Douglas County.

“This is a state project. It ought to be paid for out of state money,” State Sen. Brad Ashford said. “The state ought to take the responsibility for funding its own education institutions.”

But NU lobbyist Ron Withem said the university is well on its way to pulling together the financial support for the $370 million project at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Sources of funding include the state, private donors and patient revenue, along with money from the city and county.

“We need to be realistic. The state has contributed very generously,” Withem said about the idea of increasing the state's share.

Jen Rae Hein, the governor's spokeswoman, was more direct in her response.

“The governor is opposed,” she said, adding that he was traveling and could not elaborate further.

Ashford, who is running for mayor of Omaha, said he plans to introduce legislation next year because he thought NU officials did not fully explain the project and its funding when they sought state support this year.

Omaha should not have been put on the spot to come up with $35 million or risk losing the cancer center, he said.

“I would have never voted for a project that required a city tax increase,” he said.

The City Council this fall approved a 3 percent occupation tax on tobacco to generate $35 million for the center. The 3 percent tax adds some 15 cents to the average price of around $5.10 for a pack of cigarettes.

A public vote was not required because the tax would raise less than $6 million a year.

The Douglas County Board voted to provide $500,000 a year for 10 years, for a total of $5 million. The money is to come from county inheritance tax revenue.

Omaha City Councilman Chris Jerram, who co-sponsored the city's tobacco tax ordinance, said the idea of getting state money is “highly speculative” and “a long way down the road” from getting approval from the Legislature and the governor.

Jerram said that if the Legislature fully replaced the local funding, he would look at whether the city needed to continue its tobacco tax ordinance.

But Jerram also said the local funding already is impressing philanthropic foundations and donors, and he'd hate to see “even the best-intentioned bill” scare off donors.

Ashford said his goals are to figure out what share of the project funding should be the responsibility of local governments and what should fall on the state.

He also wants to explore whether all pieces of the project are needed. He questioned the need for additional hospital beds, for example.

Ashford also said the state could potentially find money for the cancer center project by reducing the amount of sales tax revenue that is set to be put into road-building next year.

The centerpiece of the medical center project is a $323 million cancer center: a $110 million research tower; a $63 million, 108-bed inpatient center; and a $150 million outpatient center.

A $47 million ambulatory, or nonemergency, center would bring the total project cost to $370 million. That center would not be cancer-related.

Sen. Bob Krist said he plans to co-sponsor Ashford's bill, as well as introduce legislation setting stricter limits on occupation taxes, such as the tax imposed for the cancer center project.

“Where does it stop?” Krist asked. “It's the state's responsibility to fund the university and its programs.”

He said the bill would set out a legal definition for occupation taxes that would not include taxes charged at the point of sale.

His proposal also would specify how occupation taxes could be used and would impose a penalty for collecting more than $6 million a year from a particular tax.

A law passed this year allows cities to levy occupation taxes without seeking voter approval if the tax is expected to yield less than caps set out in the law. In Omaha, the amount is $6 million a year.

Krist said his proposal would require cities to reduce an occupation tax by the amount collected above the $6 million limit.

The Nebraska Legislature approved $50 million for the cancer center project as part of an $85 million capital construction package for higher education.

Along with money for the cancer center, the package included $15 million for a new nursing and allied health professions college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a first, $6 million payment on financing bonds for a new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

World-Herald staff writers Jeffrey Robb and Leslie Reed contributed to this report.

Contact the writer:

402-473-9583, martha.stoddard@owh.com

Contact the writer: Martha Stoddard

martha.stoddard@owh.com    |   402-473-9583    |  

Martha covers the Nebraska Legislature, the governor, state agencies, and health, education and budget issues out of our Lincoln bureau.

Keystone XL pipeline backers blast ‘political expediency’ as foes hail ruling to delay decision
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Man, 21, shot in ankle while walking near 30th, W Streets
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs, police say
Dems criticize governor hopeful Beau McCoy's ad in which he strikes a Barack Obama doll
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »