Joe Jordan| Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — Calling the University of Nebraska Medical Center a private fundraising “juggernaut,” Gov. Dave Heineman today pushed back at plans to raise Omaha taxes to help pay for a new cancer research center .
In an exclusive interview (listen here) with Nebraska Watchdog, Heineman—who calls the project important— said the $370 million deal was to be funded with $50 million from the state and the rest from private sources.
“The president of the university, nor any other university official, ever told me that someone was going to ask the city of Omaha, the Douglas County Board or any other local unit of government up there for additional funding,” said Heineman. “The clear implication is it was going to be raised through private donors. So what’s going on now?”
Councilman Chris Jerram is leading a move to raise $35 million over 10 years with a new 35-cent per pack city cigarette tax.
Jerram tells Nebraska Watchdog he’s got four co-sponsors — adding up to five votes, enough to pass the tax. The plan goes to the council Tuesday. A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25 with a final vote likely Oct. 2.
As Nebraska Watchdog first reported, mayoral hopeful Brad Ashford wants the university to slow down and “get the City Council off the hook.”
Ashford, a state senator, voted for the $50 million in state funds.
Asked by Nebraska Watchdog if the University may have run out of private donors Heineman was less than sympathetic.
“They haven’t had that conversation and if that’s what is going on as Senator Ashford suggested, they ought to be public about it,” said the governor. “(NU) President (J.B.) Milliken ought to show up at the City Council and explain, ‘Here’s what happened.’”
Heineman also appears skeptical.
“The University of Nebraska Medical Center is a fundraising juggernaut,” said the governor. “They’ve been able to raise the money for any project they wanted so far.”
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