State Spending for Stem Cells?

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

Senator Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau says, "if there is something that is related to embryonic stem cell research it should be done off campus."

And it would be out of state buildings, without the help of taxpayer dollars if the republican Senator had his way. He discussed that plan as part of the legislature's budget committee, but met much resistance.

"Talk about moving us backwards, that would be about the most backwards proposal possible. I can veto that and I will veto that," promised Governor Jim Doyle on Thursday afternoon.

"We decided to take this up outside of the budget," relents Sen. Fitzgerald. " We are going to do a separate piece of legislation."

While they duke it out at the capital, over at the University Research Park there is concern that the political pulling will slow progress, and let other states make the big strides when it comes to stem cells.

Mark Bugher, Director of University Research Park, says, "most of the leading states around the country are advocating to push this kind of research welcoming it with open arms, Wisconsin seems to be wanting to close the door."

Governor Doyle does want $380 million for an Institute that would study stem cells and technology, but other states are taking even bigger steps like in California where voters approved a proposition last November to use $3 billion in state bonds for a stem cell research fund. Florida wants to follow in their footsteps by trying to get a $1 billion initiative on next year's statewide ballot. And Washington's Governor signed a bill allotting $350 million to life science research.

With big bucks being spent, Bugher is worried that Wisconsin, the place that pioneered this research, will be out of luck. "Other states are not going to sit still, and they are going to attract our best and brightest faculty," he says.

Senator Fitzgerald says he will continue to work on getting tax dollars out of embryonic stem cell research, and hopes to soon introduce a bill to that effect. Bugher says if a proposal like that passed it could jeopardize private funding as well.

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