Monday, December 22, 2008

Layoffs Loom at California State Agencies, Not Likely at CIRM

More details about the financial condition of the California stem cell agency are emerging as sweeping layoffs and pay cuts have been ordered at other state agencies.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said 238,000 state employees must take what amounts to a 9 percent pay cut via mandatory, unpaid furloughs. He also ordered payroll cuts that amount to 10 percent, beginning Feb. 1.

The governor asked state agencies that he cannot directly control, such as the University of California and CIRM, to take similar action.

Also on Friday, Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times reported:
"The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine next month will weigh a contingency financing plan that could include bond anticipation notes and a private placement with major philanthropic backers.

"The move, which would have to be approved by the state stem cell bond committee and Treasurer Bill Lockyer, comes against the backdrop of a financial markets meltdown that has clipped access to capital for companies and government agencies alike."
Leuty continued:
"CIRM has $168.9 million on hand, said spokesman Don Gibbons, and has enough to fund office operations until July 2010."
That statement is somewhat at variance with figures provided by California stem cell Chairman Robert Klein. He told the California Stem Cell Report earlier this month at the meeting of the CIRM board of directors at UC Irvine that $160 million was available between now and the end of June.

We are querying CIRM concerning the discrepancy and the governor's payroll cuts.

However, CIRM has been chronically understaffed since its inception and actually needs to hire more employees to bring it up to its legal cap of 50, which is tiny compared to the magnitude of running a program that has now awarded more than $600 million in building and research grants. The agency has already indicated it wants to add the much-needed employees, and, in our view, is not likely to roll back staffing levels

Leuty also had an interesting financial tidbit concerning Klein, who says that he has spent personally $6.5 million on behalf of Prop. 71 and CIRM.

Leuty wrote:
"Klein, who operates a financial advisory firm in Palo Alto, said he spent $5.5 million shepherding Proposition 71 through approval and has swallowed $1 million in CIRM-related costs since then while working 40-hour-plus workweeks as chairman."

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