Lawmakers review funding for NJ cancer research

 New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd listens to a question about cancer research funding at an Assembly Budget Committee hearing. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd listens to a question about cancer research funding at an Assembly Budget Committee hearing. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Governor Chris Christie’s budget plan does not include any money for the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research. And the chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee isn’t happy about that omission.

The commission funds cancer research grants and fellowships. Providing it with additional funds could help lead to a cure for cancer, said Assemblyman Gary Schaer.

During a hearing on the budget plan, he questioned why all the money for it authorized in the current fiscal year hasn’t been spent.

“A million dollars put in by the legislature, agreed upon by the governor, with economic benefits of $10 for every dollar invested, and … $6,500 in total was actually appropriated,” said Schaer, D-Passaic.

Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd says it’s just a matter of time until all the budgeted funds are used for the commission’s efforts.

“Research doesn’t take place is just a particular fiscal year. and so we encumber that funding or dedicate it to the individual grantee for a period of time, usually two years, so that over that time they can use that funding as their expenses come in,” she explained.

O’Dowd said sales of special license plates and an income tax check-off program provide an ongoing revenue source for the commission of about $500,000 a year.

Calling it a good program, she said lawmakers could include funds for it in the budget.

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