Late-breaking legislation to construct research buildings at the state’s three universities passed its first test yesterday. The House Commerce and Military Affairs Committee passed the $400 million measure by a vote of 10-2. The legislation now goes to the House Rules Committee.
Yesterday’s action included the addition of an amendment that would ease the state’s financial obligation. According to The Arizona Republic, the amendment calls for the universities to hand over 30 percent of the income generated the prior year by the research facilities, up to 50 percent of the state’s annual appropriation to the universities. This would begin in fiscal year 2017.
Developing university research programs is viewed as a way to build Arizona’s economy by attracting federal grants, generating new jobs, and further developing the state’s growing biosciences industry. The legislation would enable the universities to receive the following allocations:
- Arizona State University: $185 million to continue building the Arizona Biodesign Institute and to create facilities for research programs at ASU West and East.
- University of Arizona: $182 million to construct three buildings and expand another; one of the new projects would be a Phoenix-based medical research building of the Arizona Health Sciences Center that would tie into the Translational Genomics Research Institute.
- Northern Arizona University: $73 million for to build an applied research and design building, remodel outdated research facilities, and build the NAU Yuma Science Building in Yuma in conjunction with Arizona Western College.
The new buildings would be completed in three or four years and would create more than 3,000 university and construction jobs. ASU researchers have estimated that the construction would boost the Valley economy by $330 million and the ongoing annual impact could be $250 million.
The plan calls for paying back bonds with sales taxes collected on construction materials. The universities would pick up the debt payments for the first four years until the state takes over responsibility, expected to be about $33 million beginning in 2007.