Friday, October 05, 2007

CIRM Bonds: 3.55 Percent vs. 5.168 Percent Interest

When Prop. 71 was passed, even well-informed voters believed that the new California stem cell agency would use $3 billion in NON-taxable bonds to finance its activities.

The issue is significant because it costs the state a great deal more to use taxable bonds, which were exactly what was used on Thursday.

The California Stem Cell Report asked the state treasurer's office for a comparable rate if the bonds had been tax-exempt. Spokesman Tom Dresslar replied that the rate would have been around 3.55 percent. That compares to the 5.168 percent rate that the bonds were sold at, a rather hefty boost.

The total interest cost for the $250 million in bonds is expected to be $31.941 million.

CIRM and the state treasurer's office are seeking an opinion from the IRS that they hope will allow CIRM to use non-taxable bonds, but it is not clear when that will be forthcoming.

If it can't use the cheaper financing, the state faces close to another $1 billion in interest costs, according to some estimates. That is beyond the $3 billion that non-taxable bonds were expected to cost. (Yes, the figure is nearly identical to the amount of bonds authorized under Prop. 71.)

The issues of the cost of CIRM bonds and what could be generously described as a lack of candor during the campaign on the part of California stem cell Chairman Robert Klein are currently backburner issues in the Capitol and California. But given the magnitude of the costs, they are likely to surface anew in the not-to-distant future.

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