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Moffitt Cancer Center in line for $10 million research boost from Legislature

TALLAHASSEE — House and Senate leaders will likely give an extra $10 million to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute this year.

The Tampa-based institute has spent years lobbying for new money to use toward a $371 million expansion effort that could produce up to 1,400 permanent new jobs.

Lawmakers stopped short of promising to fund the new campus, instead proposing a $10 million one-time earmark in the state's health care budget.

The money isn't tied to a specific program but is expected to help fund new research teams.

"We are really happy and we are very grateful for this because it is a very difficult time for the state," said Jamie Wilson, the center's lobbyist.

Located at the University of South Florida Tampa, the center already receives $10.8 million in its share of state higher education dollars. That is expected to be continued next year.

The one-time allocation is part of a $50 million earmark for medical research. State budget negotiators also agreed to direct $40 million to the state's two main research grant programs.

Lawmakers said cancer research funding has been traditionally shielded during the state's annual budget battles, partially because of Florida's reputation as a breeding ground for cancerous diseases.

With its aging population and sunny skies, Florida was second only to California in new cancer cases and cancer deaths last year, according to the American Cancer Society. The state saw a total of 102,210 new cases and 41,270 deaths in Florida in 2009.

The Moffitt Center, named after former House speaker H. Lee Moffitt, is also praised as a high-wage job producer — coveted employment in a tourism-heavy economy, said Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, an advocate of the earmark.

"It is not only a cancer center that helps many Floridians all over the state of Florida, but it is also a huge economic driver in the Tampa Bay area," he said.

Moffitt Cancer Center in line for $10 million research boost from Legislature 04/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 8:32pm]
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