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Shultz Supports Stem Cell Measure

September 08, 2004|Megan Garvey | Times Staff Writer

Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz endorsed a $3-billion bond initiative for embryonic stem cell research Tuesday, calling the proposition "carefully designed."

Shultz, who served in the cabinets of the Reagan, Ford and Nixon administrations, is the most prominent Republican to back Proposition 71. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Former First Lady Nancy Reagan have said they support expanding stem cell research, but have not taken positions on the initiative.

The bond measure would earmark nearly $300 million in each of the next 10 years for stem cell research. With interest, the bonds would cost an estimated $6 billion. With polls showing public support for expanding such research, opponents of the measure have focused on its cost.

For that reason, the endorsement by Shultz, now a global and economic policy fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, could be particularly useful for the measure's supporters.

"Beyond its potential to generate lifesaving cures ... Prop. 71 includes key fiscal and governance provisions that will protect California's budget and ensure that the funds are administered in a careful and responsible way," Shultz said in a statement.

Shultz serves on the board of directors of the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. Another board member, cancer researcher Paul Berg, has backed the bond measure.

Wayne Johnson, a Sacramento lobbyist helping to coordinate Proposition 71's opposition, said Shultz's comments about the measure's fiscal structure were "absolutely and categorically incorrect."

"The text of the initiative specifically gives [research backers] the right to spend the money however they please -- there really are no controls beyond the requirement that they issue reports on the spending," he said.

Supporters of the bond initiative argue that funding research on embryonic stem cells -- cells with the potential to become any type of cell in the body -- could potentially lead to cures or treatments for such diseases as juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and others.

In 2001, President Bush limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research to work on already-existing cell lines.

So far, supporters of Proposition 71 have a substantial edge in raising money, but voters appear closely divided in early polls.

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