Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Unseemly Bid for Federal Help

California is running out of cash, and its governor has just called lawmakers kindergärtners.

That's in Sacramento, where government leaders have failed to deal with a $28 billion budget shortfall, and the state has cancelled bond sales.

In Washington, the win-at-any-cost battle against a possible economic depression is now running around $8.5 trillion, including loan guarantees.

In San Francisco, however, at the headquarters of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, all is financially well. The agency is assured of a constant stream of cash that cannot be touched by the governor or lawmakers, courtesy of the voters in 2004.

But CIRM Chairman Robert Klein wants more – specifically loan guarantees from the federal government for his proposed $500 milliion biotech bank. With guarantees, it could double in size, he believes, and help struggling biotech firms.

Klein will make his pitch to CIRM directors on Monday, seeking their support for an effort to convince the Obama administration to provide the financial assurances for the CIRM program. Certainly, a good case can be made to help out stem cell firms, which have had a hard time attracting cash. And since money is flying around in Washington, why not try to grab a few bucks. Everybody else is doing it.

But the question is whether it is appropriate? Do CIRM directors really want to put their hands out for help while the poor and elderly in California are seeing their government assistance cut? On the surface, it does appears a bit unseemly. Sphere: Related Content

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