Friday, November 15, 2013

Sharing Jerry Brown's 'Reality Sandwich:' The California Stem Cell Angle

California Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday served up a “reality sandwich” that may not augur well for the financial future of the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

It was a “lower-your-expectations” message that harkened back to Brown's first term in office when he surprised many in the state with his frugal ways.

Brown delivered the news to the University of California regents, one of whom is also Sherry Lansing, a longtime and influential member of the 29-member governing board of the stem cell agency.

Brown told the regents that he plans to budget the university for a $146 million increase (5 percent) in state funds during the upcoming fiscal year. The regents want an additional $120 million. Brown said that was not going to happen.

David Siders of The Sacramento Bee reported that Brown, who once studied for the Catholic priesthood, told regents that they may think that his "Jesuitical harshness is not nice.” But he said that there are many competing interests within the state and "that's kind of the reality sandwich we have to chew on."

UC Regent Lansing said that she is not ready to give up on more cash for UC and that she believed in UC's “power of advocacy,” according to Katy Murphy, writing in the San Jose Mercury News. Last summer, at the stem cell agency's governing board meeting in July, Lansing also stressed the need for “renewal of the (state) bond money” that finances the operations of the agency, which is known as CIRM.

The stem cell enterprise faces a more serious fate than the University of California. The agency will run out of money for new awards in 2017. It is looking at some sort of public-private partnership to continue its efforts. Its initial assumptions include as much as $200 million in public support.

The state's economic situation could improve within two years. However, the pressing demands of a host of high priority needs in California will increase as well. Stem cell research will face tough competition against the many compelling state problems that have been given short shrift during the past five years or more.

That's all part of the “reality sandwich” for CIRM to sample in December when its directors will be briefed on a new plan for financing the agency's future.

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