Should More Money for Stem Cells Come With a Tax?

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Bob Klein, chair of the board that oversees California's state stem cell agency, told the LA Times this week that he plans to seek another bond to support stem cell research on the 2014 ballot. This is not news -- Klein was saying the same thing about another bond in early 2009 when I wrote about the agency's board for the Scientific American.

That's fine. If voters want to approve more money for stem cell research, they have the right to choose.

But given the state's budget troubles, the new ballot request for stem cell money should be different than the $3 billion bond approved by voters in 2004. That was a general obligation bond -- which means that the money to pay it back comes out of the state's general fund, which is the location where most of the money for education, health, and other core state programs. So the money paid on the stem cell bond comes at the expense of those programs.

A new bond should identify a funding source -- either a new tax or fee, or a cut to some other program. Voters should be made to understand that there are tradeoffs in funding stem cell research. And politically, Klein and the stem cell agency's supporters may face strong opposition even from lawmakers and media organizations sympathetic to stem cell research if they don't take this fiscally responsible step.

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