“One of my proudest achievements as governor was significantly increasing state funding to R&D (research and development), which happened in the last 2 or 3 years I was in office.” Angus King, at a late July town hall event at Husson University in Bangor

King can take some credit for this. Research and development spending from the state’s general fund increased dramatically overall from 1997 to 2002, the last full year he was in office. It took a dive from 2001 to 2002.

A report during the King era from the Maine Science and Technology Foundation said the state was making good strides in research and development but still falling short of competing to full potential in the “new economy.”

A significant, if irregular, portion of R&D money comes from bond issues, which voters approve. We’ll exclude those to get a better picture of R&D funds totally controlled by lawmakers and signed off on by King.

More than $2.7 million from the general fund went toward R&D in fiscal year 1997; nearly $3.7 million in fiscal year 1998; nearly $7.8 million in fiscal year 1999; more than $15.4 million in fiscal year 2000; more than $40 million in fiscal year 2001 and nearly $24.9 million in fiscal year 2002, according to the Maine Office of Fiscal and Program Review.

Of that R&D spending, more than $34 million to the University of Maine System’s Maine Economic Improvement Fund, founded in 1997. That fund directs money to university-based research in designated areas, including precision manufacturing, aquaculture and marine sciences, composites, and others, according to the University of Maine’s website.

But the 2002 Maine fiscal office report concluded that total R&D spending, defined as spending by the state, nonprofit laboratories, the federal government, higher education and private industry, was lagging behind national standards.

It noted that R&D spending comprised only one-half of 1 percent of the state’s economy in 1998. Nationwide, that number was five times higher, the report said.

“Yes, there’s some tough news,” King said at the time, “but it tells us where we have to go work.”

Verdict: R&D funding took a significant step forward during the King administration. Even with the dip in general fund money directed toward it from 2001 to 2002, it got off the ground in that time period.

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