MCG funding restored but Fort Discovery money cut

Friday, April 3, 2009 8:23 PM
Last updated 8:30 PM
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ATLANTA — The state budget passed by the General Assembly on Friday night restored funding for the Medical College of Georgia.

However, it included a $250,000 cut to the National Science Center's Fort Discovery.

"In this kind of economy, Augusta came out very well," said Rep. Ben Harbin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He noted that with tax collections down 15.5 percent, the budget is $3 billion smaller than the one passed for the current year.

Mr. Harbin, an Evans Republican, said he had wanted to fully fund Fort Discovery, but both Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Senate chose to eliminate all funding.

Rob Dennis, National Science Center's chief executive, said a deep budget cut would force his staff to consider reducing what it offers or possibly even moving.

"We'd really have to re-look our business model in a serious way," he said.

The Senate had also called for cutting $11 million in research funding at MCG.

Mr. Harbin said the conference committee he served on that negotiated the differences between the House and Senate versions restored the research money. Plus, the school is getting $6 million in bonds for construction of the "commons" building and for $27 million for expansion of the dentistry school and $7.7 million for expansion of the medical school at a campus in Athens.

"MCG is full," he said.

The budget also assumes that the Department of Human Resources is able to find a private company to operate a pair of centralized mental hospitals that would eventually replace most of the seven regional hospitals. While the department's plans haven't been finalized, East Central Regional Hospital at Gracewood would be reduced but would remain open as the home for the most profoundly affected by mental retardation.

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