In the rush of the legislative session’s last day, the University of Kentucky got a pleasant surprise: $40 million in state bonds over the next two years to help with its next big research building aimed at solving the state’s health disparities.
Currently known as Research Building 2, the steel skeleton going up on Virginia Avenue will house researchers trying to solve Kentucky’s worst problems: cancer, diabetes, heart disease and drug abuse. The $265 million building is already half funded by the state, and half from private gifts. UK will receive $20 million in each year of the biennium.
“This substantial investment in our research enterprise (and the confidence in and commitment to our work it represents) will allow us to better leverage our new research building to be opened in August 2018 and the federal government’s expanding financial investment in health-related research,” President Eli Capilouto said in a campuswide email on Monday night.
UK also saw funding restored to other programs that had been cut in various budget proposals, including the Robinson Scholars Program and various cancer research programs. All public universities saw a 6.25 percent cut, but some of that was offset by about $31 million in the state funding formula, which awards money according to criteria such as graduation rates. Capilouto said UK would suffer a 3 percent decrease, a cut of between $6 million and $8 million.
There was not good news for the University Press of Kentucky, which serves all eight public universities, publishing academic and trade books from across the state.
One of Kentucky’s most famous writers, Wendell Berry, protested the cut in an editorial, calling it “both petty and barbaric” when it was first proposed in Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget.
“If it should happen, this destruction would amount to an act of censorship, for the knowledge made available by the Press belongs to the people of Kentucky, to readers now and to come,” he wrote. “It is a part of our commonwealth, which the governor and the government are entrusted to protect, not destroy.”
Capilouto said the press received $672,000 in the current fiscal year, and would work with partner institutions “to identify ways to sustain the financial viability of the Press over the long term.”