Throughout the relative austerity of the last five state budgets, Governor Chris Christie somehow managed to spend $100 million in cancer research through Rutgers Cancer Institute. In his current proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015), Christie has proposed funding the program at the same level it was funded in fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, $18 million.
Christie proposed spending $18 million in the FY 2014 budget too. In negotiations with the legislature the amount was raised to $28 million for the current year.
Now Rutgers Cancer Institute and their friends at The Star Ledger are spinning the new $18 million proposed for the coming year as a cut of $10 million.
If a government funded cancer research program discovered/created a cure for cancer, what would happen to that program? Would taxpayers all get a big check from the profits from the breakthrough drug or treatment? Alternatively, would cancer treatments become “free” like parks and roads without tolls? Would the employees of the program ask the government for another $18 or $28 million the following year?
What would happen to the government funded cancer research programs if a cure was discovered/created in the private sector?
A cure for cancer is something we all pray for (well most of us, not atheists in Matawan or the cancer treating industry which makes billions every year). Everyone knows someone who the disease has taken. Everyone dreads the thought of succumbing to the disease. It’s the perfect issue to try to attack Christie with now that the traffic jam isn’t sticking.
During his Ask the Governor Radio Show last night, Christie turned the issue around on his critics. We can’t spend an extra $10 million on cancer research or education or many other worthy endeavors, because of New Jersey pension and healthcare obligations to retired government employees.
A smart political response from the Governor.
For me, there are two lessons in the cancer research controversy. Government programs last forever and the Rutgers Athletic Department should use the same PR hacks that the Cancer Institute uses.