New life has been breathed into Nebraska University’s $450 million Healthier Nebraska Initiative.
Gov. Dave Heineman, initially cool to the university’s request for $91 million from the state cash reserve fund, seems to be warming to the idea.
Nebraska University President J. B. Milliken says the governor has proposed an alternative: state funding over a period of time.
“I am supportive of his suggestion that these initiatives could be funded over several years as long the commitment to support them is made this year,” Milliken tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Heineman signaled his changing attitude in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald.
“I think this is a very important project, and some state support is probably warranted,” The World-Herald reports Heineman said in an interview. “The key is, can we work out a multiyear commitment so the state doesn’t have to do it all upfront? Because we do need to protect our cash reserve for a future economic downturn.”
The initiative proposes projects on three campuses. The centerpiece is a $323 million cancer research and treatment center on the Omaha campus of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Two projects are planned for the Lincoln campus and one for the campus in Kearney.
While Milliken is willing to wait on the money, he says the project needs a commitment from the state now.
“I think that the important step to be made during this session is a commitment to the state support,” Milliken says.
Milliken says a promise of state funding will help the university raise private funds.
Supporters of the project estimate the cancer center would create 1,200 jobs by 2020, expected to generate $100 million per year for the state economy.
The university expects to raise $200 million in private funding for the cancer center. UNMC would borrow $120 million to complete financing of the project.