U of L wants more money to attract top researchers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U of L wants more money to attract top researchers

U of L President James Ramsey told a panel of lawmakers the university needs more money to attract top researchers.  But with the state's tight budget, that could prove to be a tough sell.

Fox 41's Bennett Haeberle explains why the university president was making a sales pitch to lawmakers.

Dr. Ramsey says attracting top researchers to U of L is critical for the university to become a top research institution.  In turn, he argues that would create top job growth and spur the state's economy.

Some lawmakers says there is no money without a cigarette tax.

U of L researchers have been helping a young Owensboro boy regain his ability to walk.  Researchers believe the spinal cord has a memory that can be "re-taught" what it once knew.

On Wednesday, those doctors told a panel of lawmakers they need more funding for such research.  Dr. Susan Harkema said, "Right now, we're trying to recruit one of the top physicians from this area to come here and we're competing with Columbia, Harvard, and Tier."

The program, known as Bucks for Brains, matches state money with private research funds.  In these tight budget times, Dr. James Ramsey told the lawmakers, "We need more money. We need more Bucks for Brains.  Research space is critical."

The state General Assembly approved $60 million for Bucks for Brains this year.  That figure is down from previous years.  Dr. Ramsey says, "Well, we would have liked more, but in the past funds the Bucks for Brains have been funded at $110 million and $120 million, and $120 million. In this session it was funded at $60 million."

Ramsey says attracting top researchers is critical if the university wants to become a premiere research institution.  Lawmakers are not sure where to find the funding, with Senator Julie Denton saying, "If I had the answer to that, I wouldn't be in the state Senate, I would be ruling the universe."

Lawmakers like Rep. Tom Burch believe part of the answer will arrive in January in the form of a cigarette tax.  Burch says it will pass despite its failure in the House this spring.  "The governor, had he gotten behind it earlier, we would have had a better chance.  But he was so fixated on casino gaming that he forgot about the cigarette tax."

Some have argued a cigarette tax could bring in $300 million in its first year.

Dr. Ramsey also told lawmakers about the university's NUCLEUS program -- a $2.3 billion project to attract 8,000 high-paying jobs in the next 15 years.  Funding for that program is also being sought.

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