Wisconsin Gov’s Plan to Fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research Faces Opposition

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 9, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Wisconsin Gov’s Plan to Fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research Faces Opposition

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
December 9, 2004

Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle’s plan to spend $750 million funding embryonic stem cell research in the Badger State is running into opposition from state legislators who are concerned the state can’t afford it. They say the state faces a difficult financial time and has other pressing needs for funds to keep programs going.

With Wisconsin facing a potential $1.6 billion budget deficit, the legislators say this is no time to start new programs — especially one so costly.

Rep. Dean Kaufert, co-chairman of the Assembly’s Joint Committee on Finance, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper, “With the state’s limited dollars, it’s going to be extremely tough."

“I mean, the governor’s going to have to pull one out of his hat as far as coming up with some funds (for) this program," he added.

But Doyle defended his proposal, saying it would keep biotech jobs in the state where embryonic stem cells were first discovered.

“When you look at where Wisconsin’s going to be five years, 10 years, 15 years from now, this initiative is essential to making sure that we are a leader in research and that we also are enjoying the economic benefits to come from that," Doyle told the Milwaukee paper.

That’s a nice goal, but legislators say it has to be balanced with other needs.

“The simple realities are that we have lots of other needs out there right now, present needs – women and children, and the elderly and handicapped and disabled,” Kaufert told the Journal-Sentinel.

Steve Baas, spokesman for Republican Assembly Speaker John Gard, concurred with Kaufert’s remarks and said Doyle would have to wait and see what funds the state legislator finds are available.

In the meantime, Baas is worried that Doyle will "raid" some other state fund for the money he wants.

Doyle announced the proposal on the heels of California voters approving a $6 billion measure to finance unproven embryonic stem cell research.

The $750 million would build on the nearly $1 billion the state has spent on medical research facilities over the last decade.

Part of the funds, which would be paid out over 10 years, would create the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.

Some of the projects Doyle wants require legislative approval while others the governor can begin on his own through moving money in the state budget.

The state’s leading pro-life group said it will work feverishly to make sure the legislature does not approve taxpayer funding of research that destroys human life.

"Wisconsin Right to Life supports the use of tax dollars for the use of ethical research which does not involve the creation and/or destruction of human life," said Barbara Lyons, Executive Director for Wisconsin Right to Life. "We will work with legislators to insure that Governor Doyle’s proposal is amended to exclude unethical research."

After two decades of research, embryonic stem cells have yet to produce a single treatment. Meanwhile, adult stem cell research has produced more than 120 treatments for patients suffering from various diseases and ailments.

The Governor’s proposal would reportedly also use tax incentives to lure biotech businesses to the Midwestern state.

Related web sites:
Wisconsin Right to Life – https://www.wrtl.org
Wisconsin State Legislature – https://www.legis.state.wi.us