Doubling Down on Stem Cells
Is your state in debt? Try gambling on embryonic research.


Nearly half of New Jersey’s citizens want to leave their state, and it’s not just because of the “Which exit?” jokes, its reputation for political corruption, or even the smell.

According to a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll released last Wednesday, 49-percent want out of the Garden State, and 58-percent of those “Born to Run” cite the financial burden as their reason for leaving. High property taxes, high health-insurance premiums, and expensive housing are killing Jersey’s working class — a shocking 59-percent of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year want to re-locate.

A Rutgers University report published this month notes that out-migration to other U.S. states more than tripled between 2002 and 2006, draining $10 billion in personal income from the economy and reducing tax revenue by $680 million. As a result, the state’s fiscal woes now make it the nation’s fourth most indebted, trailing only California, New York, and Louisiana.

Democratic Governor John Corzine’s attempt at economic renewal is similar to that of other states in the same debt jam: Borrow half a billion dollars more and invest it in stem-cell research.

But wait, don’t laugh! That extra debt will yield a 16,000-percent return — that’s way better than a roulette-wheel bet on the green double-zero in Atlantic City. Seriously — an economic report prepared for the governor claims that borrowing money to invest in stem cells will lead to fewer employee sick days, fewer citizen deaths, and less in health-care costs in New Jersey — a savings of $73 billion in a span of nine years. If Corzine is making the state’s riskiest gamble yet, at least he is going for a real jackpot.

California took the lead nationally in 2004 by passing Proposition 71, which allowed the state to invest $3 billion in stem cell research over ten years. New York is also in the running as Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D.) began the year pushing for a $2 billion stem-cell initiative.

It goes to show that the states most deeply in debt are also the most desperate to corner this market, and competition appears to be fierce. To give Corzine a competitive bid, the New Jersey assembly has approved Referendum A3186 for the ballot next month, asking citizens to approve $450 million bond issue for stem-cell grants over ten years.