KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A $5 million cash infusion plan for the University of Hawaii Cancer Center is already facing opposition from some lawmakers. UH officials say they need the additional state funding to pay for staff and researchers and that if they don't get it, they'll be forced to lay off hundreds of workers in two years.
"If we do not have the additional support for the basic positions, like every other organized research unit at the university, then we'll be unable to perform at the high level that we are at this time," said Dr. Jerris Hedges, the cancer center's interim dean.
But some lawmakers say that throwing more money at the center won't fix it. "Obviously they don't have the management to even administer the cancer center. I have very little confidence the $5 million will be managed properly," said state Rep. Isaac Choy, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. "I am not convinced that funding the Cancer Center will even help the cancer center."
Much of the center's funding comes from revenues from the state's tobacco tax. But that has declined by about seven percent a year since fewer people are smoking. Meanwhile, the Cancer Center grant money decreased by one third in the last three years down to $20 million dollars.
The state Senate and Gov. David Ige support more funding for the center. But those measures will need to overcome the House's opposition.