Prop. 14: Everything you need to know about the $5.5-billion stem cell measure

Scientists are learning more about how to harness stem cells to reverse heart failure, but treatments won't be widely available right away. Above, a stem cell researcher.
Scientists are learning more about how to harness stem cells to reverse heart failure, but treatments won't be widely available right away. (Dennis Drenner / For The Times)

Proposition 14 would authorize the sale of $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, known as CIRM, for stem cell studies and trials.

Here is a rundown of the ballot measure:

The measure

In 2004, voters approved a bond measure to pay for stem cell research.

Now, with the money from that bond running out, supporters of the state’s stem cell agency are asking taxpayers for a new infusion of cash.

With interest, the bond could cost the state $260 million per year, or $7.8 billion over the next 30 years, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Pro arguments

Proponents of Proposition 14 say the measure will help find new treatments and cures for chronic diseases and conditions, including cancers, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and heart disease. They say the previous bond advanced research and treatments for more than 75 diseases, including two cancer treatments for fatal blood disorders that were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Without new funding to keep the program going, supporters of Proposition 14 say, groundbreaking medical discoveries and lifesaving research will be slowed or stopped.

Anti arguments

Opponents say that the state shouldn’t take on new debt while facing a pandemic-induced deficit and that medical advances attributed to the previous stem cell bond have been overstated. In addition, opponents say CIRM has been hampered by conflicts of interest and too little oversight, neither of which are remedied by the ballot measure.

The campaign to pass the 2004 ballot measure told voters that the bond would save millions of lives and cut healthcare costs by billions. Critics say that’s not been the case to date, although supporters of this year’s measure note that they never intended those results within 16 years. While there is not much organized opposition, some newspaper editorial boards, including those at the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, have opposed it.

Reading list

With Prop. 14, California voters will be asked for more borrowing to keep stem cell research going

Explaining Prop. 14

Times columnist George Skelton assesses Prop. 14

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

California’s stem cell program faces an existential moment — and a chance for reform

When it comes to disease, stem cells are a game-changer, scientists say. This is why

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.