Democrats in the state House and Senate are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to veto a portion of the state budget, even though nearly all voted for the budget.
They seek to preserve funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, a public-private partnership which has used money from the tobacco settlement to seed research. The final budget agreement cut $9.8 million from the fund, a compromise down from the Senate’s earlier proposal to drain $34 million and effectively close it entirely.
In a letter to Inslee, 17 Democrats and one Republican (retiring state Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens, who voted no on the budget) rightly argue the Life Sciences Discovery Fund has shown a strong return on investment.
Funded by Tobacco Settlement money, LSDF has produced a nearly 8:1 return on Washington’s investment, including over $396 million in additional funding and more than $67 million in health-care cost savings.
They’re right. A Seattle Times editorial urged lawmakers to keep the fund robust, as did an Everett Herald editorial, which described the cut as “not only is inconsistent with the public interest, but nonsensical given the fund’s seven-fold return on investment.” The fund is projected to become self-sustaining in 2017, but the cut would endanger grants in progress. Pulling the plug on research-in-progress is absurd.
Among the investments are Washington State University’s “smart home” to help elderly residents continue to live independently; a University of Washington project using “biochip” technology for earlier detection of breast cancer; and a UW project to spot biomarkers for autism spectrum disorders.
In the TVW video below, State Sen. Marco Liias, D-Mukilteo, links the Life Sciences Fund issue to the Legislature’s decision this session to let the high tech research and development tax credit sunset.
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