The University of Michigan's battle with Republican lawmakers over stem cell research took a turn Friday when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder sided with the school, according to the Detroit Free Press.
U-M, the only Michigan university currently carrying out stem cell research, has been at odds with a group of Republicans in the legislature who say some of the school’s funding is in jeopardy after it refused to disclose the number of stem cell lines in use.
According to Annarbor.com, last month the state House's subcommittee on higher education threatened to withhold $7 million of performance funding for U-M and Michigan State University from the 2012-2013 state budget, with the inclusion of language that penalizes universities that don't report the number of embryonic stem cells used for research. (The subcommittee has a separate disagreement with MSU over the school’s mandated student health insurance.)
Last week, the House and Senate appropriations committees passed the higher education bills with the restrictions in place.
But Snyder spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher told the Free Press the governor continues to believe that language tying funding to disclosure of stem cell research specifics is not enforceable.
The debate has been ongoing since last year, when Republicans required a report from U-M about the number of stem cell lines being used, and the university submitted a long report that did not include the requested figures. State Rep. Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuck), chairman of the House higher education subcommittee, told the Free Press that reports are a common part of the budget, for the sake of accountability.
Democrats have a different take: Rep. Joan Bauer (D-Lansing) told AnnArbor.com the new strictures were punitive and an "attempt to micromanage our public universities."
The state budget allots $1.4 billion to higher education, a 3 percent increase from the 2011-2012 budget, though funding was cut more drastically in prior years.
In 2009, as restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research were relaxed, U-M started the A. Alfred Taubman Center Medical Research Institute Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies. The Consortium uses human embryonic stem cells to examine diseases and search for cures.
Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health certified one of U-M's stem cell lines for NIH research.