While the director of the state's technology-based economic development agency highlighted its successes for the downtown Rotary Club on Tuesday, the Legislature and governor apparently struck a deal that would cut $4 million from its budget.
Funding bioenergy centerThe agreement would take $4 million from the budget of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and use it to partially fund a new bioenergy center, said Michael Carolina, executive director of the agency. Carolina said OCAST employees tracked the legislative agreement on the House of Representatives' Web site at www.okhouse.gov. "In one line item it said ‘$10 million for a bioenergy center using $4 million from existing appropriations from Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology,'” Carolina said, quoting from a post on the Web site.
Record appropriationsOCAST received a record $22.4 million in appropriations for the current fiscal year. Agency officials had requested a $10 million increase from that level to fund more technology-based research and commercialization programs, Carolina said. Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Henry's spokesman, Paul Sund, responded to an inquiry about OCAST funding with an e-mail that said he was told the agency would receive "$2 million in additional operational funds.” That's what the governor proposed in his budget. Losing $4 million from its budget would affect several programs funded by OCAST, Carolina said. "It would take us effectively to $18.4 million, if they do it like it's written here,” he said. "That means we would probably not fund nanotechnology and plant sciences. And we would have a question mark around seed capital because that was $5 million.”
‘National model'OCAST administered new programs that funded nanotechnology and plant science projects this year, as well as $5 million for a seed capital fund for technology based start-ups. In his speech to the Rotarians, Carolina touted the return that OCAST has generated in state investment over its 20-year life. The agency has received$138.6 million in funding, which in turn has generated $2.4 billion in grants, awards and investment capital. "We are recognized as a national model,” Carolina said.
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