State funding for genetics research facility in Collier still alive as House approves budget

— Plans for Maine-based Jackson Laboratory to build a genetics research institute in Naples to advance personalized medicine remains in balance as the state House of Representatives approved a $67-billion budget plan Thursday with $119 million allocated for economic development.

State Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples, said he is optimistic that $50 million of the $119 million in the House budget for the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development can be directed to the Jackson Laboratory project.

The $710-million Jackson research facility is proposed for 50 acres on Oil Well Road in eastern Collier County. The land would be donated to Jackson by the Barron Collier Co.

“The way the House has funded economic development in the past, it seems likely it will fund Jackson,” Grady said. “We need to continue to fight hard to get the $50 million for Jackson. It is not a done deal.”

The House and Senate, which approved a $70-billion budget on Wednesday, move into budget conference negotiations in the coming weeks to work out spending differences. The Senate Ways and Means Committee last week earmarked $50 million for the Jackson project.

Grady said the Senate support will be a help in the conference negotiations between the two budgets, along with support by Gov. Charlie Crist and House Speaker Larry Cretul.

Grady said as far as he knew, no other large-scale project is vying for funds from the tourism and economic development office, which bodes well for Jackson.

“There’s certainly nothing that would have the economic impact to the state of Florida,” he said, adding that the tourism and economic development office supports cluster projects in the state.

A Jackson facility in Collier would augment other biomedical developments in the state, namely Scripps Florida in Jupiter, part of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and the Burnham Institute in Orlando, a division of Sanford-Burnham Medical Institute, also in La Jolla.

Besides state funding, about $130 million in matching local dollars would be needed for the Jackson project, and that’s separate from $120 million in private funding that Jackson officials say they would need to raise.

Collier County Commission Chairman Fred Coyle has been spearheading efforts on the local level to raise money, along with the Economic Development Council. Coyle said recently that construction could get started this summer if the funding pieces come through.

During the first five years of operation, the laboratory would have 200 employees that could increase to more than 7,000 employees by the 10th year of operation, at which time the annual economic impact could be $835 million, according to a consultants’ study.

The House’s $67.2 billion budget approved Thursday would spend about $2 billion less than the Senate’s version. With the 60-day legislative session half over, the chambers will have a month to resolve their differences.

The House’s 74-44 party line roll call came after four hours of partisan debate. That contrasted with the Senate’s unanimous vote a day earlier on its $69.5 billion plan for the budget year beginning July 1.

The biggest differences between the chambers are over $880 million in additional federal Medicaid stimulus and $435 million from the Seminole Indians in exchange for expanded gambling at tribal casinos. Both are in the Senate bill but not the House’s version.

Democrats opposed an education conforming bill (HB 5l01) because it would require school districts to publish information showing how their budgets would be negatively effected if voters fail to adopt a state constitutional amendment loosening class size limits.

Democrats also criticized a $52 reduction in spending for each student in public schools while Republicans argued it would amount to less than 1 percent — small compared to other cuts.

The Senate bill would increase spending by $15.41 per student to $6,881.18. That figure, though, assumes all 67 school districts will levy a local option property taxes but 25 have not done so. If they don’t, the Senate figure also would drop below this year’s funding level.

Both chambers would increase tuition by 8 percent at state and community colleges and public universities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Connect with health-care reporter Liz Freeman at www.naplesnews.com/staff/liz_freeman

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