In the News: Questions Raised about Prop 14



The Orange County Register: "For one thing, times have changed and the original rationale — California doing what the feds wouldn’t — is no longer applicable. For another, private enterprise has taken a bigger interest and stepped up research in this field. For another, Prop. 14 doesn’t resolve a longstanding lack of oversight and accountability. And finally, imposing new costs on residents is hardly merited when most are struggling."

The Bakersfield Californian: "As California continues to struggle under the catastrophic burden of the coronavirus pandemic, increasing state budget deficits loom, public service cuts are likely and economic recovery is likely to take more than a decade. In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted most of the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and demand for the cells has been greatly reduced as other research and technologies have advanced. Adding $5.5 billion to the state debt for just stem cell research would be unwise in these economically dire times."

Mercury News & East Bay Times: "Prop. 71 was designed to kick-start the research at a time when federal funding was blocked. The hope was to establish California as a major player in what was regarded as a promising field. Now supporters are asking voters in the Nov. 3 election to approve issuing another $5.5 billion of bonds. More bonds should be out of the question. It’s time for California’s stem-cell agency to continue its work as a self-sustaining non-profit or close down and allow federal grants and private business to push the industry forward. Vote no on Proposition 14."


The California stem cell program’s $5.5-billion funding request might be its downfallLos Angeles Times

  • "The initiative’s ambitious financial ask could remind voters that, for all its achievements, the program’s initial $3-billion expenditure has so far failed to yield a single marketable clinical product. That’s despite the sales pitch for Proposition 71 in 2004--that all that stood in the way of “cures” for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries and other maladies was money."
  • "Moreover, the proposal perpetuates the cardinal error of Proposition 71 of rendering the program virtually immune to legislative oversight, despite its immense demand on taxpayer resources. Like Proposition 71, the new measure bars the Legislature from making amendments without a 70% vote in both houses, almost certainly an unattainable goal." 

Lofty promises, limited results: After 14 years and $3 billion, has California's bet on stem cells paid off? - San Francisco Chronicle

  • Not a single federally approved therapy has resulted from CIRM-funded science. The predicted financial windfall has not materialized. 
  • Bay Area institutions have been especially well-funded, with more than one-fifth of the bond money funneled to Stanford, UCSF, UC Berkeley and the Gladstone Institutes. Stanford, the biggest beneficiary, has received $360 million in grants. CIRM’s funding of Stanford, a private institution supported by a hefty endowment, has at times been sharply criticized.
  • The state, once told to expect as much as $1.1 billion in royalties from CIRM-backed discoveries within 35 years, so far has received just a tiny fraction of that amount: a single payment of $190,000 from the City of Hope medical research center in Los Angeles County.

Prop. 14: In the COVID age, can California still afford its stem cell research program?

  • Jeff Sheehy, a CIRM board member who opposes Prop. 14: “I think the agency’s done good work, but this was never planned to be funded forever with debt. At this point the state can’t afford it; we’re looking at a huge deficit.”




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