Democrats nationwide have been operating on the assumption that taxpayer funding for stem cell research is endlessly popular with the voters (for all the talk of “banning” research on embryonic stem cells, remember that nobody has advanced a serious proposal to make such research illegal; the issue is whether to spend taxpayer money on it despite the substantial moral/ethical objections of a significant number of taxpayers).
Yesterday in New Jersey, that theory was put to the test, and appears to have gone down in defeat before what is usually accounted as a liberal Northeastern electorate:
New Jersey voters on Tuesday rejected borrowing $450 million to pay for stem cell research grants in the state for 10 years.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, 53 percent of voters opposed the spending.
The rejection was a defeat for Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who campaigned heavily for the measure. He argued the money would help find cures for conditions such as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell anemia and multiple sclerosis while also luring leading scientists and research firms to the state.
But the measure was opposed by anti-abortion activists, conservatives and the Roman Catholic Church because it would pay for research that destroys human embryos and would increase state debt.
“It’s a reinforcement of our values and a rebuke to the governor,” said Steve Lonegan, a conservative Republican who led opposition to the question. “The taxpayers are saying enough is enough.”
New Jersey voters had not defeated a statewide ballot question since 1990.
Senate President Richard J. Codey, a leading stem cell supporter, pinned the defeat on chronic state fiscal problems and mounting state debt.
“The taxpayers of New Jersey are not against stem cell research,” said Codey, D-Essex. “It’s clear. The message we’re getting is put your fiscal house in order and then do these things.”
Presumably, supporters of federal stem cell research believe that the federal government’s fiscal house is already in enviable condition. But voters, if asked to put their money where their priorities are, might say otherwise.