George Pataki’s era of inertia and stagnation has been jettisoned. As the New York Times reports, state lawmakers are laying the groundwork for the “most ambitious government-financed stem cell project on the East Coast.”
When President Bush severely limited funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2001, it was up to state governments to fill the void. New Jersey immediately seized the initiative and pledged millions for stem cell research. Under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California implemented a $3 billion bond initiative, and other states followed with ballot initiatives or legislation to give scientists grants or to build research centers.
My home state of New York remained a wallflower in the stem cell research dance. Remarkable, as New York is the proud home of elite research universities, medical centers and biotechnology companies. Furthermore, embryonic stem cell research can be a huge tax windfall for New York and stimulate job growth. Under Pataki’s lethargic leadership, legislative efforts to direct state funding for embryonic stem cell research was at a functional impasse.
Spitzer has proposed passage of a $2 billion 10-year bond initiative for research and development. Half of the money is to be allocated for stem cell research. To entice upstate Republicans, the economic growth component of the project is being heavily promoted. Upstate New York’s economy even struggled during the economic boom of the nineties so this project is likely to even attract support from conservative representatives.
Embryonic stem cell research is one example of Albany's new breeze. Progressives are understandably focused on Washington Democrats because of their new majority and the Bush era of corruption and war mongering. However, I’m more excited by what’s happening under the leadership of Democratic governors such as Montana’s Brian Schweitzer. As a New Yorker I’m encouraged by Eliot Spitzer’s start. His policy initiatives are ambitious and sensible. Spitzer's proposals on embronic stem cell research, illustrate the reality based community has a dynamic advocate inside the governor's mansion. It's been a long time.