The Bakersfield Californian is likely the first paper in the state to take a stand on the $5.5 billion California stem cell measure, advising its readers to reject the "mega-bond" as financially unwise.
In an editorial published online yesterday, the newspaper said,
"As California continues to struggle under the catastrophic burden of the coronavirus pandemic, increasing state budget deficits loom, public service cuts are likely and economic recovery is likely to take more than a decade.
"In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted most of the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and demand for the cells has been greatly reduced as other research and technologies have advanced.
"Adding $5.5 billion to the state debt for just stem cell research would be unwise in these economically dire times. Vote NO on Proposition 14."
"Stem cell research greatly advanced in California, but the promised spectacular breakthroughs have lagged – a result of the tedious and time-consuming nature of research....
"Voters and earlier proposition advocates should be proud of the progress the initial $3 billion stem cell investment has accomplished. But times have changed and passage of another mega-bond now would be unwise."
How important are newspaper endorsements nowadays? They are one concrete standard that campaign managers can be measured against, so they may take on outsized importance. But newspapers are a dying breed, reaching fewer and fewer readers. Even in their heyday, decades ago, only about 25 percent or so of readers turned to the editorial pages on a regular basis.
However, a wave of negative editorials could take on a life of its own, leading to mentions in the coverage of Proposition 14 as an indicator that the measure is in trouble. That said, don't expect heavy coverage of the proposal.
Both print and online news media are short-staffed. Most of their efforts will focus on higher-profile issues, including presidential matters, local ballot races and other propositions, such as rent control and property taxes involving the state's sacrosanct Proposition 13.
And for the record, Proposition 14 will cost taxpayers an estimated $7.8 billion because of the interest on the $5.5 billion that the state will have to borrow.
Read the California Stem Cell Report regularly for the latest and most in-depth coverage of the effort to save the stem cell agency from financial extinction.