Editorial: Mayo Cancer Clinic shut out of funding

Published July 5, 2014

Welcome to Tallahassee, Mayo Clinic, where the legislators you know, the lobbyists you hire and the campaign contributions you make count more than who you are and what you have accomplished.

It seems the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Jacksonville is a bit bewildered about how Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature divided $60 million for cancer research. After all, it has a prestigious brand name and joins Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa as being the only Florida cancer centers recognized by the National Cancer Institute, a designation that is key to getting federal research money. Yet as Tia Mitchell of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reports, Mayo did not get a nickel of the $60 million. Zero. Zilch.

Instead, the money will be divided among Moffitt, which is certainly deserving, and cancer centers at the University of Florida and the University of Miami, which don't even have the NCI designation. Go figure.

There are lots of reasons that make sense only in the state capital. Mayo is viewed with suspicion because its main offices are in Minnesota even though it sees thousands of cancer patients in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville legislative delegation isn't as strong or as large as the delegations from Tampa Bay and South Florida. There are plenty of loyal fans and alums for the Gators and the Hurricanes in the Legislature who made sure their schools squeezed in. And the Republican governor can already count on conservative Jacksonville to deliver but needs more votes from Tampa Bay and South Florida to win re-election. Mayo salvaged a $2 million consolation prize elsewhere in the budget and learned valuable lessons for next year. Political muscle trumps proven performance and established credentials. The solution: Hire more lobbyists.