The President of the University of Texas, Tuesday, jumped into the heated Prop 1 health care tax debate. With Early Voting now in its second week, the focus of the debate over Prop 1 seems to be squarely on what UT can and cannot do. Tuesday, University leaders looked to the past to justify the health care - med school plan.
Kathryn Sharp is one of 1,100 nursing students at UT. In time, the life-like patients she currently works with in a Simulation Lab near the Erwin Center will be real people.
"And I'm interested in women's health, so maybe working in a hospital on a maternity floor or working at a maternity clinic or something like that," said Sharp.
An old military surplus building off campus is where the UT Nursing School had its beginnings. Over the past five decades it has grown into a major academic center for health care training. To go beyond that there is a plan to rebuild UMC Brackenridge into a full scale medical school. It involves a partnership, with UT Regents pledging $290 million for the next 10 years to the project and Seton making a $250 million commitment. To keep the med school idea alive the plan is also directly linked to a property tax hike for the Health District. If voters approve Prop 1, $35 of the $54 million raised each year will help operate the med school.
Those who oppose the Prop 1 tax argue the University, with its profitable football program and endowment should bear the cost. But UT President Bill Powers called that assumption is incorrect.
With the Nursing school as his backdrop, Powers explained that the UT Endowment is shared with 13 other schools in the UT System. He also says UT-Austin is near the bottom in terms of public support.
"That fact, belies the notion that there's extra money around," said Powers.
As University President Powers by law cannot endorse Prop 1 but made it clear there was no Plan-B if the tax hike fails to pass at the ballot box.
"And that's hard to understand where that money is coming from, it needs to be a reliable source of funding," said Powers.
That implies a "NO" vote by tax payers on Prop 1 could pull the plug on plans for a med school.
Early voting ends Friday, November 2.