The Chron continues its series on Constitutional amendments on this year's ballot with a look at Prop 15, the initiative to fund cancer research with $3 billion in bonds.
No organized opposition has emerged to Proposition 15, but detractors say going into debt is an irresponsible way to fund a goal that might prove elusive. Backers counter that the state would share in proceeds from any major patents that could result, and such income would help pay back the bonds.
"The opposition is really voter apathy," said political strategist Bryan Epstein, a consultant for Texans to Cure Cancer, the leading political action committee pushing passage of the measure.
"Proposition 15 safely passes if the turnout is over 1 million," Epstein said last week. "It becomes more challenging if the turnout is less than a million."
High-profile bond initiatives in Houston aimed at public schools, the port authority and criminal justice could attract more voters to the polls, he said, but elections for constitutional amendments often draw lackluster statewide turnouts.
I'll say this: The Prop 15 skeptics can make a pretty persuasive case, one that can be tailored to different voters:
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said Proposition 15 sounds like a good idea, but he has serious concerns about the funding mechanism.
"Traditionally, we don't borrow money except to build infrastructure. This is a fairly significant departure from that," he said.
Also, the state is setting aside $6 billion in surplus funds to pay for a promised property tax cut, said Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin think tank that advocates for low-income Texans.
Yet, if it borrows $3 billion for cancer research rather than tapping into the state's general revenue, taxpayers will have to pay an estimated $1.6 billion more in interest.
McCown questioned the logic of that policy, saying, "We're borrowing money because we're keeping money in our wallets to fund tax cuts."