March 8, 2007
Gov. Rick Perry and key lawmakers unveiled plans Wednesday to establish a $300 million-a-year cancer research institute that they hope would put Texas universities and medical centers in the forefront of work to find a cure.
Under Senate Bill 1292 and Senate Joint Resolution 43 by Lewisville Republican Jane Nelson, voters would be asked to authorize the state to sell bonds and use the money for research grants. The disease kills 35,000 Texans a year.
“This could be our crowning moment,” Perry said during a Capitol news conference attended by representatives of several cancer-fighting organizations. “I believe in this with all my heart.”
According to information distributed by Nelson’s office, 85,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed in Texas each year and the disease costs Texans about $30 million annually.
Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat who survived testicular cancer and who lost both parents to cancer, said the commitment of massive state funding would be an emotional lifeline for people facing the disease.
“We all know hope matters,” Watson said. “It is hope that many times leads us through the darkness.”
Perry has pushed a number of cancer initiatives since starting his second full term in January. One, his order that girls ages 11 and 12 be immunized against the sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer, was met with open hostility by many of his fellow Republicans in the Legislature, including Nelson.
The initial reaction to his proposal to establish a state cancer institute was also cool because he proposed funding it with proceeds that would be gained from selling the state lottery. No lawmaker has stepped up to carry that suggestion during the nine-week-old legislative session.
Perry said that financing the initiative with bonds, which would be repaid with tax revenue over several years, was not his first preference. But he said the effort is too important to be derailed over a funding dispute.
The American Cancer Society, Lance Armstrong Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure have endorsed the proposal.