President Milliken testifies in support of “Building a Healthier Nebraska” legislative initiative

February 1, 2012

University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken today testified before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee in support of the four bills that collectively make up the university’s “Building a Healthier Nebraska” initiative. Milliken highlighted the tremendous potential the initiative has to grow Nebraska’s economy, meet workforce needs, and improve the health and well-being of people across the state.

Building a Healthier Nebraska bills are:

  • LB 1055 (Sen. Galen Hadley), which provides $19 million for a building addition at the University of Nebraska at Kearney to allow for expansion of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Kearney nursing division and establishment of a new UNK-based UNMC allied health professions program.
  • LB 1065 (Sen. Tony Fulton), which provides $17 million for a new UNMC College of Nursing Lincoln division that would allow for enrollment growth to better meet the state’s nursing shortage.
  • LB 1066 (Sen. Tom Hansen), which provides $5 million to plan and design a new Veterinary Diagnostic Center at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources to replace the current center that is in danger of losing its accreditation.
  • LB 1089 (Sen. John Nelson), which provides $50 million for a new cancer research tower at UNMC, one component of a larger cancer center project that would position UNMC to earn prestigious Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute.

Milliken said, “This is an exciting initiative that holds tremendous promise for Nebraska – contributing both to a healthier economy in our state, and to the health and well-being of all Nebraskans.”

Milliken added, “As the state of Nebraska’s only public university, the University of Nebraska has both the opportunity and the obligation to work with our elected public officials to address challenges that have an impact on the health and quality of life of our citizens.”

For example, Milliken noted that the state’s nursing shortage is predicted to reach 3,800 by 2020. Similarly, demand for allied health professionals such as physician assistants and physical therapists is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, particularly as the population of Nebraskans over age 65 increases.

Cancer impacts one in two Nebraskans in their lifetime and the importance of cutting-edge cancer research cannot be overstated, Milliken said. A high-quality, accredited veterinary diagnostic center also is critical to the economic health of the state’s livestock industry.

Milliken likened a state commitment to Building a Healthier Nebraska to the state’s investment last year in Nebraska Innovation Campus. That $25 million commitment already has been leveraged with about $80 million in planned development from the private sector.

An economic impact analysis from Jerry Deichert, director of the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, shows that construction for the four projects is expected to generate the equivalent of more than 2,600 jobs annually. On an ongoing basis, the projects would create more than 4,700 jobs.

The state in recent years has put in place a number of financial incentives to lure new businesses to Nebraska. If the tax incentive formulas used by the state’s Department of Economic Development were applied to the cancer center project, the overall $370 million investment for the project would be eligible for $82 million in state sales tax credits over the next decade.

In other words, the university’s $50 million request to the state for the cancer center represents only 60 percent of the state tax credits that a private-sector business would receive for a project of the same scale.

“The state is in a strong position to make one-time investments from the cash reserve,” Milliken said. “More importantly, that investment would be leveraged many times over – helping the University secure private and business support for the remaining $320 million cost of the cancer center and ultimately putting hundreds of millions of dollars back into the state’s economy.”

Joining Milliken at the hearing were a range of university, legislative, business and community leaders from across Nebraska who testified in support of the Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative’s components.

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska