Prop 29 shaping up to be fiscal disaster

What do stem cell research and cancer research have in common?

In California, both health causes serve as money making mechanisms for bureaucrats.

Stem cell research

In 2004, California voters passed the stem cell initiative, Proposition 71, which authorized the creation of theCalifornia Institute of Regenerative Medicine, at a cost of $3 billion to taxpayers. Touted to as the only way to find the cure for Parkinson’s disease, rare cancers and other rare diseases, eight years later, where are any cures?

Even after a great deal of scrutiny since its creation, the CIRM is planning on asking voters for even more money.  Highly paidofficials, conflicts of interest, a stunning lack of results, and no accountability, CIRM has become a large and expensive problem for California.

Cancer research

In June, California voters have a chance to stop a similar fiscal disaster. Proposition 29, “The California Cancer Research Act,” exhibits all the same built-in flaws as the stem cell initiative—a lack of financial accountability, conflicts of interest, as well as the possibility of running out of money.

As with the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine , Proposition 29 is exempt from the oversights of the administrative and legislative budget process, which prevents the legislature and Governor from reining in unchecked spending, and questionable uses of funds.

And, Prop 29 was written to remain in place for 15 years, without the possibility of changes–not even by voters.

Prop 29 will provide an even larger discretionary budget to its commission by allowing $110 million to be spent every year on “facilities.”  The nine appointed commission members can spend the money out of the state, or even out of the country. If additional taxes are going to be imposed on Californians, the money should at least be required to be spent within the state.

Conflict of interest

Of the $1.1 billion dispersed by California’s stem cell research agency since its passage, $930 million has gone to research institutions with faculty or administrators on the stem cell agency board. Prop 29 contains the same conflicts of interest, and would allow the tobacco tax money to be given to the organizations which employ the commissioners.

Prop 29 raises revenue from tobacco taxes, and claims that it will discourage people from smoking. However, not only is there no scientific data showing that taxing smokers encourages people to quit smoking, if the goal is really to stop smoking, where will future revenues needed to support the agency come from?  Many anticipate that the Prop 29 commission will eventually run short of revenues, and will end up turning to voters for funding.

As Californians have witnessed with the CIRM, Prop 29 could be an even bigger fiscal disaster.  Even the LA Times editorial board said that Prop 29 was obviously modeled after the CIRM initiative, lacked the same accountability as CIRM, and said that they oppose Prop 29.

With a $17 billion deficit, California does not need one more tax or another costly, unaccountable bureaucracy.

Read Proposition 29 here, to review both sides of the argument. For the two campaigns, look at Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes & Spending, the opposition to Prop 29, and  Californians for a Cure, the group supporting Prop 29.

(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)