TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The proposed delay of state funding for a livestock and dairy research center near Twin Falls could derail the entire project, a University of Idaho official said.
Private donors have given about $1 million for the proposed center with the understanding that the state would help shoulder the financial burden, said Rich Garber, director of industry and government relations for the UI's College of Agricultural and Life Science.
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has proposed delaying $10 million in state money for the proposed research center as part of a plan to balance Idaho's budget and cut $40 million in current fiscal year spending.
"There is a real concern that if those public dollars go away, then the private donations might also go away," Garber told the Times-News.
In 2007, when the $10 million in state money was committed for the project, proponents hoped the proposed university-run Idaho Center for Livestock and Environmental Studies could be operating by 2008 or 2009.
The university and the dairy industry reported in December that the sour economy and plummeting real-estate values were hampering efforts to raise money and cover their portions of the proposed $37 million project.
At the time, the dairy industry had raised $800,000 of its promised $5 million contribution. The university's plan to sell state land in Caldwell to help raise $20 million for the project hit a snag because of declining land values.
"The state (funding) portion was a critical part of the discussions when we sat down at the table with donors," Garber said. "Something we may look at is asking the Legislature to leave some of that money, rather than delaying the whole $10 million."
That proposal may be a tough sell for legislative budget writers, said Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, co-chairman of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.
"Given the circumstances surrounding our revenue, every dollar that I keep to that end will be a dollar less than I can spend on education and toward higher education and the other necessary issues of state government," Cameron said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.