SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to push $15 million more into stem-cell research, but many lawmakers are leery of more public funding for the controversial procedure.
The proposal announced Wednesday would siphon $100 million over five years from the state tobacco settlement funds and turn it into grants for regenerative stem cell research.
"For anyone with a parent, for anyone with a grandparent, a child, a loved one or a friend, who suffers a disease that can be cured by stem-cell research, we can offer them more than our hopes and our prayers," Blagojevich said. "We can offer them the possibility that the disease they have can one day be cured."
Scientists are interested in these types of cells because of their ability to be turned into any type of tissue in the human body. Stem cells potentially could provide cures to Parkinson's disease and diabetes and other injuries and ailments.
Stem cells can be harvested from several sources, such as umbilical cord blood and unused eggs from fertility treatments. Critics of the governor's proposal oppose state funding for research involving human embryos.
"I have a great deal of reverence for my creator, and I am not willing to play that role and take life in any form, make it or take it, in the name of science or in the name of anything," said state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville. "I think there's a higher judge, and I have a lot of problems with supporting anything that encroaches on the territory of our creator."
Others said their support would depend on how the legislation is worded.
"I think there are limits to what man should do," said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. "I would hate to deny anyone the right to help their children, if we could. This is a lot of money and it should come through the Legislature."
Under the governor's plan, the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, which is run by the Illinois Department of Public Health, would hand out the grants.
Blagojevich addressed the issue in his fourth budget address. Last year, the governor and the Democratic legislative leaders quietly slipped $10 million into the current budget.
This move angered conservatives of both parties, especially Democrats, who supported the budget but oppose public funding for the controversial research.
Most lawmakers gave the governor credit for being upfront about his intentions this year.
"At least this time he will be honest and let people vote 'yes' or 'no,'" said State Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa.
State Rep. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, said the proposal may not get out of the Legislature.
"We tried that last year and it didn't even make it out of the House as liberal as this House is," he said. "I don't think they'll pass it this year."