Friday, May 13, 2011

California Budget Mess Hamstrings Fresh Funding for Stem Cell Agency

The prospects for new sales of California state bonds – the only source of funding for the $3 billion California stem cell agency – remain dim, according to an article today in Bond Buyer.

"The California bond market has become hamstrung by the delay" in coming up with a prudent state budget in Sacramento, wrote Randall Jensen in the public finance newspaper.

Jensen(no relation to this writer) reported,
"California has no plans to go to market until the fall, and even that is far from ­certain. 'We still hope to be in the market this fall to sell $5.5 billion to $6 billion of GO bonds.  But the treasurer has no interest in selling bonds without a balanced budget in place,' said Tom ­Dresslar, a spokesman for state Treasurer Bill ­Lockyer.

"Dresslar said GO-bond financed public works programs have enough funds to make it though the end of the calendar year, but added that if the state doesn’t go to market until next year current projects could face a shutdown."
The stem cell agency says it has sufficient cash to fund current commitments until roughly June of next year. There is no guarantee, however, that the agency would receive funds via the first round of bond sales even when they do occur. The state has about $37 billion in bonds awaiting sale. Competition for allocations will be stiff.

Outgoing CIRM Chairman Robert Klein told directors last month that he had hoped for new bond funds this past winter. According to the transcript of the directors' Finance Subcommittee meeting on April 19, Klein said,
"It should be remembered that because of the large collaborative teams we build in California for disease teams, for example, or large collaborative teams that are necessary for clinical trials, and the international teams that we need to make certain that we retain a working reserve so that we provide assurances to these teams that this extraordinary effort they put together to bring together institutions and special expertise is not defeated, although we have an approved loan or grant. So, for that matter, it's important to the industry as well."

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