25 Jul Doyle partially vetoes SE Wisconsin technology grant
Madison, Wis. – After months of debate and restructuring Gov. Jim Doyle has signed the Wisconsin state budget for 2005-2007 – at the expense of the Biomedical Technology Alliance.
In the final budget, Doyle announced he was exercising a partial veto on a proposed grant of $2.5 million to the BTA, an organization of universities, vendors, and investors located in southeastern Wisconsin. The partial veto will cut the grant by 80 percent, providing the organization with $500,000.
The original grant, proposed by Sen. Ted Kanavas of Brookfield, would have helped fund the organization’s collaborative efforts by supporting researchers and spin-off companies. The funding was intended as seed money and would have been matched by BTA members and sponsors and would have increased the BTA funding to $10 million according to Kanavas’ estimate.
Kanavas said he hoped the funding would be used to create a research center in southeastern Wisconsin, where the members of the BTA – the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the Milwaukee School of Engineering – could engage in collaborative research.
“In Madison it’s easier to do these things – you have IT, chemistry, physics, all these things under one roof of the University of Wisconsin,” Kanavas said. “[The center] would make it easier for organizations that specialize in research for job confirmation.”
The veto does not come as a surprise to the BTA, according to Bill Hendee, dean of the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and president of the MCW Research Foundation. Hendee said the BTA knew the grant would likely get lowered in the final budget, since members of Doyle’s administration had been in touch with BTA leaders and informed them of the possibility.
Hendee said the BTA will not be taking the lowered grant for seed funding but will be using the funds to work directly with the state, helping Doyle use the money to uncover new avenues of investment. Once those avenues yield the $2.5 million, the BTA will then take the money and start investing in partnerships and research.
“We’re saying to the governor, `I know you only want to take $500,000 from the state budget, so take that and use it as a foundation for finding funding sources until we can reach the initial request’,” Hendee said. “We don’t want to go through that matching process for only $500,000.”
Marc Marotta, secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, said Doyle vetoed the grant because it would have taken funding away from other economic development organizations and companies in the state. Marotta said the administration believed the $500,000 will help support the BTA.
He added that Doyle is committed to the goals of the BTA and is interested in working with the state legislature to find additional sources for funding without limiting other funding sources. “We want to make sure the Department of Commerce has the flexibility to get this done,” Marotta said.
Hendee said the group is willing to work with the state on different means, as they didn’t expect the funding to come solely from the Department of Commerce. “We understand that concern, and we’re anticipating that the state will work with the legislature to find new sources of funds to make up the difference,” Hendee said.
Kanavas has sharply criticized these cuts made by the legislation, claiming it hamstrings the efforts of the BTA and makes their job of uniting the region far more difficult. He said the lowered funds are yet another sign of Doyle’s “nickel-and-dime administration” abusing its veto power, which is the broadest state veto power in the nation.
“If Doyle wanted to pay for the BTA, he could have found funding from a variety of ways,” Kanavas said. “Jim Doyle isn’t interested in growth; he’s interested in November 2006.”
Kanavas said he would continue to campaign for funding for the BTA, searching for additional venture capital initiatives and retraining efforts.
Hendee was more optimistic about the BTA’s future, considering the potential of the southeastern Wisconsin region and comparing the initiative to neighboring states. In Michigan, the state government has placed $100 million into an early investment fund operating on the same track as Wisconsin.
“We thought $2.5 million was rather modest,” Hendee said.