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Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — University officials are putting the final touches on plans to build a $164 million building that will expand downtown Phoenix’s medical school and high-profile biomedical campus.  But the project is stuck in political limbo and it’s unclear if construction crews will break ground in February, as planned.  “It will be difficult until we get moving through the Legislature,” said Jaime Molera, a University of Arizona lobbyist.

On Thursday, the Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved plans for the Health Sciences Education Building, a 265,000-square-foot facility that will house lecture halls, an anatomy lab, a simulation center, and a library that will be used by the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.  The building will be located on the 28-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus that’s taking shape downtown.  The hub includes the medical school, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and ABC1 — a medical-research building used by ASU and UA.  Down the road, supporters would like to build a hospital and more research buildings.

The campus is part of Arizona’s longtime quest to grow the state’s bioscience industry.  Phoenix owns the land and the campus is part of city plans to redevelop downtown.  The Health Sciences Education Building is also a key part of plans to expand the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University, which opened in 2007.

Without the new building, the downtown medical school can’t grow much bigger, said Judy Bernas, an associate vice president at the University of Arizona.  Right now, it has 120 students and could have a maximum of 192.  But the original plan calls for a school that would eventually have 480 students.  The school won’t have enough room for that many students until the Health Sciences Building is complete, UA officials say.

Funding for the project has been approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer through the state budget process. The building would be paid for by bonds that would be paid off with lottery revenue.  But a handful of powerful Republican lawmakers are using a bureaucratic procedure to put the brakes on the project.  [Note: Read the full article at Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo.]

Arizona State Fairgrounds could be sold in budget fix

[Source: Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal] — The state could sell off the Arizona State Fairgrounds and other assets and take on more debt instead of raising taxes to help solve a $3 billion budget deficit. Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said Thursday the Arizona House of Representatives was working on an alternative to the budget plan proposed by Gov. Jan Brewer in an effort to shore up the deficit.  Brewer wants a statewide referendum asking voters to raise sales taxes by 1 cent.  Arizona currently has 5.6 percent state sales tax.

Kavanagh said the House budget plan would not have tax increases but instead could raise state debt limits and would look to sell off some assets.  That could include the state fairgrounds at Grand and 19th avenues and McDowell Road in west Phoenix.  He said the city of Phoenix has some land along Buckeye Road that could accommodate a new fairgrounds.  The state also could sell off an airport near the Grand Canyon and privatize more state prisons and corrections facilities.  The state needs to raise more revenue in order to avoid drastic cuts to a slew of programs and services, including universities and K-12 schools.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]