From the editor: Taking a look at Proposition 6

Published 2:11 pm Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dawn Burleigh, Editor

As we face another election, let us continue to take a look at what is on the ballot. This November we will face 10 propositions on the ballot. Last edition we took a look at proposition 4 as well as how to register to vote as the deadline is growing near.

This edition let us look at Proposition 6: (HJR 12) – “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”

HJR 12 proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase the maximum bond amount for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) from $3 billion to $6 billion to be issued by the Texas Public Finance Authority. CPRIT was created in 2007 to promote and fund cancer research in Texas. CPRIT uses bond proceeds to award grants for cancer research and prevention.

Billions of dollars in cancer-fighting grants, research, and preventive care are on the line when Texas voters go to the polls on Nov. 5. Physicians and other supporters hope voters will elect to continue funding the state’s cancer-fighting agency, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Proposition 6, one of 10 constitutional amendments on the ballot, would authorize the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount for CPRIT. Without new funding, the agency’s ability to award grants that promote cancer prevention and research will end by 2022. Former Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), who co-authored the Texas House of Representatives’ joint resolution this past legislative session that led to the Proposition 6 vote, said he is hopeful voters understand the need to extend CPRIT funding, according to a press release from Texas Medical Association.

“It’s in the voters’ hands, and that’s where it should be,” Dr. Zerwas told Texas Medical Association (TMA) Fall Conference physician attendees. “Proposition 6 is an incredibly important thing to all of us, and it puts Texas in a place no other state can claim in terms of making great strides in cancer research and actually curing these diseases. I’m pretty confident that voters are going to see the value of it.”

However, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility oppose the proposition.

“While well-intentioned, Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has not been a good steward of taxpayer dollars and cancer research is not a core function of government,” the organization stated in a press release on its stance on the propositions.

The Texas House Research Organization wrote arguments for and against the amendment. The following is the argument for the amendment:

Reauthorizing the funding and continuing taxpayer support of the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute (CPRIT) under HJR 12 is needed to maintain the agency’s current level of activity and continue Texas’ national leadership in cancer research and prevention.

Although CPRIT has statutory approval to continue making grant awards through fiscal 2022, without added funds it could issue its last awards during fiscal 2020-21. The sustained funding proposed by HJR 12 is necessary to plan and complete research and report on prevention successes and failures.

Funding CPRIT is an investment into the state economy and worthy of state dollars. Annual grant funding under CPRIT has supported world-renowned scholars, including a 2018 Nobel Prize recipient, and helped make Texas a biomedical center. The multiplier effects of CPRIT’s programs have created thousands of jobs, generated billions of dollars in economic activity, and encouraged biotech companies to expand or relocate to the state.

By approving the original bond program in 2007, voters agreed that cancer research was worthy of public investment. CPRIT’s efforts have been shown to reduce cancer costs and serve an important state goal by enhancing patients’ quality of life, productivity, and lifespans. The substantial benefits to the economy and the health of Texans from the sustainable funding for CPRIT’s programs in HJR 12 far outweigh the direct commitment of taxpayer resources and state debt.

The following is the argument against the amendment:

HJR 12 would double the size of the original bond package approved by voters for CPRIT, committing $3 billion more in taxpayer money and increasing state debt.

Funding cancer research is not an essential function of state government, and although CPRIT’s mission is noble, bonds require interest and future appropriations which could be better spent on other priorities and more pressing needs. HJR 12 is not necessary at this time because CPRIT has the authority to issue the original bonds through the end of fiscal 2022. Instead of asking voters to commit additional taxpayer money, the Legislature should use this time to discuss CPRIT’s long-term future, including a plan for it to become financially self-sufficient.

Be sure to get out and vote so your representatives know if you are for or against this change to our state’s constitution.


Dawn Burleigh is general manager and editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at