Gov. Deval Patrick is trying to make sure one of his pet projects doesn’t suffer an embarrassing shortfall, sending a budget amendment back to Beacon Hill that would give the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center a $10 million transfer and a shot at $20 million.
The Commonwealth’s 2010 fiscal budget, which passed through the Legislature last week, slashed funding for the quasi-public agency’s investment fund by 60 percent. And because the Life Sciences Investment Act tied those funds to a “net-consolidated surplus” for 2009, a dubious prospect at best, the center could be left with no discretionary funds at all in just the second year of its existence.
But Patrick sent an amendment back to the House and Senate yesterday as part of his 2010 fiscal year budget that would transfer $10 million directly into the coffers of the Life Science Center, regardless of whether there’s a surplus, according to Cyndi Roy, communications director for the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
Roy told MassDevice that Patrick’s maneuver gives the Life Sciences Center a chance to recoup almost all of the discretionary funds that were clipped in the last two years. Language in the amendment stipulates that in the event of a surplus, the center gets up to $10 million more for investment activity, bringing the potential total to $20 million.
The life sciences act, billed as a 10-year, $1 billion initiative, is actually four different funding pools, most consisting of tax breaks for infrastructure improvements and capital spending. But there’s a $25 million annual discretionary fund the center uses to make direct investments in small and mid-sized companies in the medical device, pharmaceutical and biotech sectors. Last year, amid an unprecedented economic crisis, the investment fund was cut 40 percent to $15 million.
Losing the discretionary fund would be a big blow to one of Patrick’s signature economic development efforts. Aside from a few big initiatives the center funded, such as the Wood’s Hole Marine Biology Lab and a Framingham wastewater treatment plant to help Genzyme expand its facilities there, all of its other programs were paid for using the discretionary fund.
Those programs include a two-year, $7.4 million commitment to help Organogenesis expand its Canton facility and more than $3 million in “Accelerator” loans handed out to a handful of companies in May.
But, Roy cautioned, there’s no guarantee the center will get its funding, as the Legislature still has a chance to vote down Patrick’s proposed amendment before the end of the calendar year.