Eighteen Democratic state legislators want Gov. Jay Inslee to save the state's Life Sciences Discovery Fund.
The roughly $10 million fund would be phased out three years earlier than scheduled under a compromise supplemental operating budget that the Legislature passed for 2014-15. The 18 lawmakers want Inslee to veto that segment of the budget. The Science Discover Fund was part of the House's proposal going into last session's budget compromise talks, but not the Senate's. In the give-and-take of negotiations, the Senate's stance prevailed.
"We believe that ending this program prematurely is short-sighted," said the March 20 letter to inslee from the five senators and 13 representatives who suppoert keeping the fuind. "This decision comes at an especially bad time for our life siences sector. Due to legislative inaction, our state's research and development tax credit will expire at the end of the year. To prematurely close the (Life Sciences Discovery Fund) at the same time will have a chilling effect on our state's efforts to attract and retain the jobs and investment that this sector brings to our state."
In 2005, then Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature established a program to spend $350 million — $35 million a year from 2008 though 2017 — to bolster life sciences research and use that research to create new jobs. The $350 million comes from the 1998 settlement between tobacco companies and numerous states, including Washington.
Washington's Life Sciences Discovery Fund finances a broad spectrum of health-related research and programs: studies on brain, breast cancer, blood and diabetes; developing technologies for human cell therapies; creating strains of gluten-free wheat; improving the safety of surgery in state hospitals; helping rural communities deal with mental health and substance abuse; developing "smart home" technology for the elderly; and teaching the latest CPR techniques to first responders.