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Bioinnovation Center president raises concerns about proposed state cuts

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The head of the New Orleans Bioinnovation Center is raising concerns about the future of a building that's fostered a lot of new technology and business.

Aaron Miscenich says as the governor tries to fill a $1.5 billion budget hole, he has put the center's future in jeopardy.

The center has been quietly fostering new, state-of-the-art businesses and technology for five years now, but now worries about it's future.

"We can moderately increase rents, but we have start-up companies, and to raise the rents means they will be closer to going out of business," said Bioinnovation Center President Aaron Miscenich.

Inside its 66,000-square-foot Canal Street building, the center hosts some of the newest and most intriguing new companies in New Orleans. Thirty firms like Advano, that processes nanoparticles, or Innogenomics, which develops new genetic testing solutions work on new products, technologies and jobs. They spring up in a business incubator that relies on low rents and modern new lab spaces, but the governor's budget proposal calls for the center to take a massive cut.

"It's dire," said Miscenich. "We would have $700,000 of our money disappear quickly. Medium term and short term, it could impact our ability to remain open." 

The Bioinnovation Center is by no means alone. University Medical Center lacks the money it needs to operate, as well.

"We're building a brand new hospital, but their request for funding is $90 million short," said state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.

And a proposal to boost State Police presence in New Orleans is on life support.

"No it's not dead, negotiations are ongoing. We're the only district in the state without permanent State Police," said state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.

To partially deal with a $1.5 billion deficit, the Jindal administration proposed doing away with a $377 million inventory state tax rebate that repays businesses for local inventory taxes and that could drive away some.

"There are businesses telling me they will take a significant hit - car dealers, half a million dollars," said Moreno.

But other issues remain.

"We have to do something structural," said Murray.

Some say a constitutional convention is needed.

"The whole tax code needs to be re-worked, and that's something that should happen in the future," said Moreno.

But the Jindal administration is opposed.

Spokesman Mike Reed said, "We have concerns that a constitutional convention would be used as an opening to raise taxes on families and businesses."

But supporters say fundamental tax reform is not easy and could take years - time which some say they don't have.

And though the Jindal administration says the Bioinnovation Center should be self-sustaining, it's president says many of the area's innovative new startups may collapse if rents go up.

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