Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thomas Stresses His Bond Expertise, Cites State's Dicey Financial Condition

Jonathan  Thomas, a candidate for chair of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, tonight hammered away at the value of his bond financing experience and what it could bring to the survival of the research enterprise. 

Speaking to the CIRM board, Thomas, a Los Angeles bond financier, hit on many of the themes sounded by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer in his letter on Monday. Lockyer nominated Thomas for the post. In his letter, he said Thomas was the only candidate who had a "complete toolkit" for the job. 

In his comments, Thomas repeatedly said he had "all" the qualifications for the job. Lockyer, in fact,  underlined all in his letter when he referred to Thomas' qualifications.. 

Thomas spoke candidly about CIRM's financial condition. He asked whether CIRM will have funds available after 2017, a reference to CIRM projections that its $3 billion will run out about then. Thomas said the state is in a "full out fiscal crisis." As a result, a "real possibility" exists that CIRM will not have "timely access to the funds it needs."  He said the the agency may have to look to other sources of funding.  

"Let's not kid ourselves. This problem could last for a long time," Thomas said. 

The board has not heard that sort of candid public comment about its finances recently, although the warning signs have been there for some time. 

Thomas also addressed the dual executive issue. He said the CIRM chairman and president should have complementary positions -- not overlapping. He said he spoke with CIRM President Alan Trounson on Sunday and would expect to have a complementary, highly collaborative arrangement with him. 

Thomas brought up the statement by Frank Litvack, the other candidate for chair, that he would serve in a parttime role. Thomas said the position demands more time than that offered by Litvack. 

We have asked Thomas for a copy of his remarks. He said his only copy was marked up and said he would provide one tomorrow. 

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