Mary Sanchez

Take stem cell research concerns out of sales tax debate

Updated: 2013-10-28T02:30:42Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

There are valid reasons to oppose the Jackson County half-cent sales tax to fund medical research.

Dolly the sheep just isn’t one of them.

A late-in-the-campaign claim by some organizations opposed to the tax is questioning if any of the funds would be used for research with stem cells or cloning. The Missouri Right to Life PAC and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are among those raising the issue.

If this is the reason for your planned “No” vote on Nov. 5, stand down. The allegation has been clearly answered by the institutions that would benefit if the tax passes, generating $40 million annually for the next 20 years.

Concerns about stem cell research should not drive anyone’s “no” vote.

Here is the official statement of backers of the campaign:

The partners in the Jackson County Translational Medicine Institute “hereby verify that our institutions currently perform no human embryonic stem cell research, and that the Institute will not engage in such research in the future.”

The statement was signed by the leadership of the organizations that would benefit if the tax passes: Randall L. O’Donnell, president and CEO of Children’s Mercy Hospital; Melinda L. Estes, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System; Leo E. Morton, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Wayne O. Carter, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute.

So there you have it. This is a succinct reply to the allegation that language on the ballot is vague on the issue of stem cells.

Missouri technically overcame this hurdle years ago by a vote of the people. In 2006, voters approved a constitutional amendment that protects certain forms of stem cell research allowed by federal law, while also banning human cloning.

In other words, the proponents are bending over backward to assuage any concerns. That effort is called for and admirable.

It’s also noteworthy that some of the groups that pressed the question of stem cell research didn’t focus on it as their top rationale for opposing the tax. For example, the diocese listed it third in a statement.

Instead, the diocese first pushed the regressive nature of the sales tax, noting that it is likely to hit the poor the hardest, despite the worthy goal of seeking cures for diseases. That, at least, is a fair criticism, based on fact, not conjecture.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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