Source: NJ News.com
Gov. Chris Christie tonight partially blamed a $10 million cut to cancer research in his latest state budget proposal on a familiar target: the public worker pension system.
The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s top cancer research organization, is slated to lose about a third of its funding in Christie’s new $34.4 billion budget proposal — dropping from $28 million to $18 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
During his monthly radio show tonight, Christie said last year’s budget included a $10 million increase in cancer research funding that the state Legislature negotiated as as part of a one-time “add-on.”
But the Republican governor there wasn’t enough room in the new budget proposal for the same amount, putting funding back in line with the level allotted from 2010 to 2013. He said he didn’t know whether lawmakers will negotiate a similar increase before a final spending plan goes into effect July 1.
“I think cancer research is really important to the state of New Jersey,” Christie said on 101.5-FM. “But lots of other people fund cancer research, through private funding and federal government funding.”
“You have to make some difficult choices,” he added, “and you have to look for things where there may be duplication in other places, and you try to save where you can save.”
As he has said repeatedly in recent weeks, the governor noted that his budget proposal includes the largest payment to the public workers pension system in New Jersey history. He said 94 cents of every dollar in new spending goes toward pension payments.
“That doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of money to be able to spend on things like cancer research or other issues in additional new money beyond what we’ve done before,” Christie said. “That’s why we’ve got to deal with this (pension) issue.”
Christie added that the state health department still devotes the third-largest part of its own budget — $44 million — to cancer research.
Critics say the Christie administration has historically shortchanged state financing for homegrown research — despite the fact that New Jersey has the seventh-highest cancer rate in the U.S.