Tampa Republicans say they're still fighting for Moffitt funding, despite vote this week
On a party-line vote, a House committee earlier this week proposed wiping out $50 million for cancer research programs, including one at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa.
That money comes from a portion of the $1 surcharge on a pack of cigarettes, a tax that legislators had justified, in part, by using a portion of it for cancer research.
Tampa Democrat Janet Cruz, who voted against the measure, said it amounted to balancing the budget on the backs of cancer patients.
But Tampa Republicans who voted for the bill that included the cuts emphasize it’s not the end of the line for the funding. Rep. Dana Young (R-Tampa) said she was only voting to move the bill forward.
She said she and others from the delegation will fight to keep the funding in place.
“The key is to get the proposal out of the committee and into general appropriations,” said Young. “It is the beginning of the conversation. We have something tangible to fight for.”
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.
Moffitt officials say they use that funding for 115 jobs — from biostaticians to researchers and nurses — who work on personalized cancer treatment.
Young is also a co-sponsor on another bill that 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.
Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) said he expects the delegation to fight for Moffitt funding on all three fronts. “I don’t think you can find many assets in the state that give us a better return on investment,” he said.