House plan to cut cancer research money keeps moving
The House plan to wipe out $50 million for cancer research programs, including one at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, cleared the budget committee today.
That money comes from a portion of the additional $1 tax on a pack of cigarettes. The legislature passed the extra tax in 2009, with the justificiation that a portion of it would go for cancer research.
Last year Moffitt got $10 million from the program. The James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program and the William G. Bankhead Jr. and David Coley Cancer Research Program got $20 million each.
Now, the $50 million would be used instead to cover the state’s Medicaid match under the committee bill led by Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples.
The vote was along party lines except for two Republicans on the House budget committee, representatives Bill Proctor and Marti Coley, the widow of David Coley.
House Democratic leader Ron Saunders said using the money for a purpose other than its original intentions justifies the public’s disenchantment with government. He said he voted for the 2009 tax only because of the money for cancer research.
“I think this bill is a very good example of why the public should not trust the Florida legislature,” he said.
Hudson argued that he had to find the money in a tight budget year and that it “is a relatively small piece of their budget.”
Coley said she would keep working with Hudson to improve the bill but she could not vote to move it forward. “I just can’t bear it,” she said.
Moffitt, which has an overall budget of $770 million, uses that funding for 115 jobs — from biostaticians to researchers and nurses — who work on personalized cancer treatment.
If the bill ends up approved by the legislature, lawmakers would have to pass another bill if they wanted to restore funding in a future year.
It isn’t the only state funding that Moffitt is trying to get. Another bill in the works with Tampa sponsors would increase the portion of another pot of cigarette tax revenue that Moffitt receives. The plan is to use that money — an estimated extra $10 million on top of the $5 million Moffitt now gets — to help finance construction of new research and clinic space at its 30-acre campus off Fowler Avenue in Tampa.
Moffitt last year also got about $10.9 million in higher education funding for training medical students and residents. Gov. Rick Scott proposed wiping out all that money. A Senate proposal would cut it in half, and a House plan by about 12 percent.