WisBusiness.com: Doyle’s Veto of Milwaukee-area Biomedical Alliance Disappoints Backers

By Brian E. Clark

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s cut of $2 million in funding for a Milwaukee-area Biomedical Technology Alliance brought outrage from a key Republican backer and disappointment from others.

“Jim Doyle doesn’t get it,” said Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield. “I am very disappointed. A lot of effort went into the planning for this. A lot more money could have been leveraged with this funding, and that opportunity has been lost.”

Other high-tech leaders in the state were less upset over the governor’s partial veto, which left $500,000 for the project.

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, was glad Doyle did not cut the entire amount.

“I’m actually grateful the governor was able to go with $500,000,” he said. “I consider that a good start. I’m hopeful he will work with the BTA and Legislature to quickly find and additional $2 million from programs that are consistent with building the state’s new economy.”

Still said Doyle did not want to “rob Peter to pay Paul” by draining one account to fund another.

“But the tech council firmly believes that Wisconsin needs to develop its biotech research capacity in the Milwaukee area to the fullest degree possible, and we will continue to support those efforts,” he said.

Dr. William Hendee, president of the Medical College of Wisconsin Research Center and dean of the college’s graduate school, said he understood the bind facing the governor.

“We think that the governor should take the $500,000 and set it aside and build on it from other resources until he has the $2.5 million,” Hendee said. “Then we can begin the process of matching and setting up the (alliance) administration. I’m confident he can find the money, and I expect the Legislature to work with him.”

The money would have funded cooperative research efforts between UW-Milwaukee, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the UW-Parkside.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Carlos Santiago last week lobbied Doyle on the issue and told WisBusiness.com a veto would be “short-sighted.” Santiago wasn’t immediately available for comment today. See the WisBusiness interview from last week: http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=41137

In his veto message, Doyle said the grant would have drained funding for start-up businesses and technology transfer centers funded by the Department of Commerce under Act 255, which was passed in 2003.

Despite his harsh words, Kanavas said he would work with the Doyle administration to find funding for the alliance in the future.

“Still, I think it’s ludicrous for him to say he supports this and then cut funding and then ask for support to find the funding,” Kanavas said. “I’m especially disappointed for the people of southeast Wisconsin. I guess Doyle just wanted to keep his hands on some more cash so he could take care of some of his special-interest friends.

“I just don’t think he understood the merits of this proposal,” Kanavas said.