Joe Jordan |Nebraska Watchdog
When it comes to jacking up the tax on cigarettes to help pay for a cancer research center in Omaha, mayoral hopeful Brad Ashford has a message for the head of the University of Nebraska.
Ashford tells Nebraska Watchdog he wants NU President J.B. Milliken “to get the city council off the hook.”
The council appears ready to put in $35 million over the next 10 years through a new tax on cigarettes—35 cents per pack.
Earlier this year the Legislature okayed $50 million toward the public-private project, which is expected to bring in 1,200 jobs and $100 million a year.
Ashford—a state senator who voted for the deal—wants Milliken to make a personal appearance before the council and explain why more tax dollars are needed.
In a statement to Nebraska Watchdog, Milliken said the cancer fundraising team is working on securing “both public and private support” for the center.
According to the legislation (LB968) private or “other funds” are to be used to finish off the project.
In an interview with Nebraska Watchdog, Ashford was adamant that “other funds” meant money from the non-profit University of Nebraska Foundation’s $1.4 billion bankroll, along with cash from the University’s budget.
Ashford says during the recession—unlike plenty of state programs and agencies— the Legislature did not cut NU’s budget.
Ashford ads that tax dollars, such as the cigarette tax, should only be used as a last resort and not without a full explanation from Milliken as to why private funding has come up short.
Most recent reports have put the cost of the cancer center at nearly $325 million but in his statement to Nebraska Watchdog, Milliken said the price tag is “$370 million.”
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