When Phil and Penny Knight announced last September* that they would offer $500 million to OHSU for cancer research if the public matched their gift, it understandably led to an outpouring of positive comments and support. But then, OHSU wanted state taxpayers to come up with $200 million of the match through a building bond. That resulted in much less positive press and some outright criticism.
Now, OHSU has modified its ask so that a $200 million building bond will be in addition to the $500 million it will try to raise from voluntary donors. That would mean a total of $1.2 billion in cancer research funds stemming from the Knight challenge.
Either way it’s presented, though, asking taxpayers to repay $200 million plus interest to house cancer researchers and clinical trial space is a questionable proposition.
Some proponents are counting on this deal to make Oregon the go-to state for top cancer researchers. But at least 67 other National Cancer Institute designated cancer centers nationwide are already competing for recognition and talent with OSHU. Other states are funding some of these centers already. It would be wonderful if future breakthroughs in cancer research came from Oregon, but this is not within our state government’s control.
Philanthropy is admirable, but forcing taxpayers to help match a private gift is a move in the wrong direction. Forced charity isn’t charity…it’s just force.
Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
*Audio recording incorrectly lists date of announcement as last November instead of last September.