Californians say yes on 71

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With a clear mandate, the voters of California yesterday overwhelmingly approved Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.

In passing Proposition 71, voters agreed to fund stem cell research at California hospitals, medical schools and universities, to develop lifesaving therapies and cures for diseases that could save the lives of millions of California children and adults, reduce state health care costs and provide a boost to regional economies and the state at large. Scientists believe that stem cell research holds the promise to treat a multitude of diseases that include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, ALS, arthritis and spinal cord injuries. These diseases affect 128 million Americans, including a child or adult in nearly half of all California families.

"This is an historic victory for the people of California and for the millions of families suffering from disease or injury," said Robert Klein, co-chair of Yes on 71. "There is no doubt in my mind that the mission Californians accepted today is a critical first step in changing the face of human suffering forever."

A bi-partisan coalition -- one of the largest coalitions of patient advocacy and medical groups every assembled for a statewide ballot measure -- backed the initiative including 46 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, more than 175 state and local elected officials, faith-based organizations, families involved in patient advocacy and efforts to cure diseases, and organizations like the Alzheimer's Association California Council, California Medical Association, American Nurses Association of California, California Association for Nurse Practitioners, American Diabetes Association, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, California Arthritis Foundation Council, ALS Therapy Development Foundation, Parkinson's Action Network, California Congress of Seniors, Gray Panthers and the National Coalition for Cancer Research.

"We are very grateful to the people of California and to all the thousands of volunteers who worked so hard in support of Proposition 71. We can now let our scientists do the research that needs to be done in their quest to cure and mitigate diseases that affect millions of people in California and throughout the world," said Jerry and Janet Zucker, co-chairs of Yes on 71.

Beyond Proposition 71's potential to generate life-saving cures and treatments for some of our most debilitating diseases, the measure also includes key fiscal provisions designed to protect California's budget and provide an enormous boost to our economy. For this reason, the measure received the backing of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's two fiscal officers, State Treasurer Phil Angelides and State Controller Steve Westly, and a long list of business leaders and organizations like the California Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce among others.

"Someday people will look back and be awed at the vision that our great State had to reach into the future and harness the staggering promise of this medical science to protect the physical health of its citizens and the fiscal health of its economy," said Yes on 71 co-chairs Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher.

Prop 71 won't increase or create any taxes. It authorizes tax-free state bonds that will provide an average of $295 million per year over ten years to support stem cell research at California's universities, medical schools and research facilities. These bonds will be self-financing during the first five years, so there's no cost to the state's general fund during this period of economic recovery.

Prop 71 is also expected to help reduce California's skyrocketing health care spending costs, which now total more than $110 billion per year. By leading to new cures that reduce our health care costs by only one percent, Prop 71 will pay for itself. And, the potential savings could be far greater possibly reducing our health care costs by tens of billions of dollars in the decades ahead.

Proposition 71 was developed by a coalition of California families and medical experts determined to close the stem cell research funding gap. With its passage, our state now has an effective mechanism to fund some of the most promising types of stem cell research.

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