President of the University of Nebraska system says the $71 million investment the legislature made to the Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative will reap huge health and economic benefits for the state.
State lawmakers approved the appropriation during the legislative session. Gov. Dave Heineman, hesitant about funding the proposal at first, signed the budget bills.
University of Nebraska president, J. B. Milliken, acknowledges the size and timing of the request took the governor and the legislature by surprise. Milliken says studies indicating the state’s needs for medical professionals and improved veterinary care prompted the university to make the request during an off-budget year for the legislature.
The majority of the money, $50 million, will go toward constructing a new cancer research center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus in Omaha. The center at present receives $8 million annually from the National Cancer Institute as a designated cancer center.
“We are already a major player. This would put us, we believe, in a position to be among the top institutions in the country in this area,” Milliken tells the Jack and John in the Morning Show on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Milliken says university officials will leverage the state appropriation to raise more than $300 million to complete the financing of the project.
The legislature also appropriated money for a veterinary diagnostic center on the Lincoln campus and a medical center on the Kearney campus. The university is required to raise $5 million in private funds to access money for the vet center and $4 million for the Kearney project.
Milliken says the legislature made a wise decision.
“It’s hard to think of an investment that could be made that would have more potential for creating high-paying jobs in the state and bringing economic growth to the state,” according to Milliken.
Lawmakers declined to finance one part of the Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative: a new nursing school on the Lincoln campus.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]