CA Prop 14 Explained: What To Know Before You Vote Election Day – Los Angeles, CA Patch

LOS ANGELES, CA Proposition 14, the only statewide bond measure on the general election ballot, asks voters to authorize $5.5 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research. If that sounds familiar, that's because it is. California approved a similar bond request 16 years ago, allowing the state to prop up what was then a fledgling and controversial area of research.

Prop 14's supporters contend the money is needed to fund cutting-edge research on the brink of discovering treatments and cures that could help save countless lives. Opponents say such promises are "shameless exaggerations" and that California isn't in a position to spend billions on stem cell research.

In 2004, Californians authorized $3 billion in bonds to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, with the aim of making the Golden State a hub of cutting-edge stem cell research. It offset the George W. Bush administration's decision to halt federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Sixteen years later, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is running out of money, forcing it to suspend new projects. Last year, the institute stopped accepting new applications, according to Ballotpedia.

If Prop 14 passes, it will authorize $5.5 billion in state general obligation bonds to support private, university and nonprofit stem cell research and therapy for diseases and conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, strokes, epilepsy and other neurological conditions. In addition to funding research, the measure would help fund treatment and physician training.

The measure caps the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine operating costs at 7.5 percent of the funding, with the rest going to grants. Over the last decade, the bulk of the institute's grants went to California universities and hospitals. It will cost the state about $260 million a year for 30 years to repay the bonds.

According to the text of the measure, the institute has generated more than $3 billion in matching funds, sponsored more than 1,000 research projects and treated thousands of patients. It claims to have promising treatments in the pipeline awaiting funding for final stages of research.

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"This medical revolution holds the promise of restoring health and quality of life for many of California's individuals and families suffering from chronic disease and injury," Robert Klein, chairman of Americans for Cures, told the California Stem Cell Report blog. "However, the last tactical mile to bring this broad spectrum of therapies to patients will require more funding and the thoughtful support of California's public as the human trials and discoveries are refined and tested, overcome numerous obstacles or complications, and ultimately serve to improve the life and reduce the suffering of every one of us."

Opponents of the measure say that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is no longer necessary because the federal government now spends billions to support stem cell research and private entities are leading the way on advancements without the help of taxpayer-funded grants. They question the institution's track record, oversight and budget.

"We can't afford to waste billions. In the middle of an economic crisis, with soaring unemployment and budget shortfalls in the tens of billions of dollars, we don't have money to burn," reads the opposition on the Official Voter Information Guide. "Paying back Prop. 14's costs of $7.8 billion could mean huge tax increases at a time when our economy is on its knees. Or laying off thousands of nurses and other heroes who do the real work of keeping California healthy."

The measure has the support of the California Democratic Party and the University of California Board of Regents. More than $9 million has been spent on the Yes On 14 campaign, while there are no official opposition campaigns. However, several newspaper editorial boards have come out against the measure including The Orange County Register, the Mercury News and The Bakersfield Californian.

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CA Prop 14 Explained: What To Know Before You Vote Election Day - Los Angeles, CA Patch

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