California’s $7.8 Billion Proposition 14 Could Expand Conflicts of Interest in Stem Cell Research

Proposition 14, according to California’s legislative analyst, “Authorizes Bonds to Continue Funding Stem Cell and Other Medical Research.” A “yes” vote means “the state could sell $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds primarily for stem cell research.” As David Jensen notes at Capitol Weekly, there’s a bit more to it. 

The $5.5 billion would extend the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), created by the $3 billion Proposition 71 in 2004. This measure, authored by real estate developer Robert Klein, promised life-saving cures for Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s and other diseases. A ballpark figure for the number of certified life-saving cures and therapies CIRM produced in 16 years is zero. Proposition 71 also promised more than $1 billion for state coffers, but as Jensen notes, royalties to date have totaled only $462,433. CIRM failed to accomplish its stated goal, and now it wants to conduct research on “therapy delivery” and “aging as a pathology” along with “vital research opportunities,” not related to stem cells. 

Proposition 14 would enlarge the CIRM board from 29 to 35 members. As Jensen explains, that “creates more possibilities for conflicts of interest, a long-standing issue for the agency.”

In 2012, for example, the prestigious Institute of Medicine found that more than 90 percent of CIRM funding went to institutions with representatives on the CIRM governing board. Proposition 14 enlarges that board and also increases the costs to Californians. 

According to the legislative analyst, “we estimate the total cost to pay off the bonds would be $7.8 billion—$5.5 billion for the principal and $2.3 billion for the interest. State costs would average about $260 million per year for about 30 years.”

The analyst also explains a way voters can prevent this spending. “A ‘no’ vote means the state could not sell $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds.” If voters reject Proposition 14, David Jensen explains, CIRM “will begin shutting its doors this winter.”

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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