March 11, 2009

N.Y. Budget May Neglect Cancer Funding

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Last week, lawmakers gathered in Albany to meet with New York Gov. David Patterson in response to his new budget that failed to include funding for research programs that were funded last year. One noticeable absence was $450,000 in funding towards Cornell’s Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors. According to Newsday, without these same funds that the program received last year, the researchers would be forced to discontinue their work. The proposal also did not include the $300,000 for a hotline for breast cancer patients and their families based out of Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y.
BCERF is part of the Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research within the College of Veterinary Medicine. It is currently funded by the New York State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation as well as the United States Department of Agriculture.
Bipartisan lawmakers, including Assemblyman Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham) and State Senator Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington), suggested combining agencies, like the Transportation Department and Thruway Authority, to preserve funds for research. The group also proposed cutting back on the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Manhattan and Hudson rivers.
“It was the wrong time and the wrong priority . . . . To put these two institutions [BCERF and the breast cancer hotline] on the chopping block is outrageous,” Johnson said in a Newsday article.
However, according to Jeffery Gordon, a spokesman for the State Division of the Budget, this year’s budget proposal by Paterson was structurally the same as last year’s. The previous executive budget also did not contain specifics about funding for Cornell’s breast cancer research or other projects concerning the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Rather, the executive budget is sent to the legislature, which revises the budget and delineates funds for programs within the EPF.
“Discussions are ongoing. This project, along with all other proposals to reduce spending, will be considered in that context,” Gordon said.
Thus, funding for the programs have not officially been cut yet since the legislature has not yet determined the specific allocations. According to Gordon, the legislature should be coming out with its version of the budget in the next couple of weeks. He expects the final budget to be announced by the end of the month.
Founded in 1995, BCERF conducts research surrounding environmental risk factors associated with breast cancer development. According to Suzanne M. Snedeker, BCERF associate director for translational research, the program seeks to raise breast cancer awareness and education. BCERF also works to translate research so that it can be used by the public, medical professionals, educators, activists, scientists, the regulatory community and policy makers.
“It has been such a privilege working with the people in this state who are so eager to understand this complex disease that affects so many …. We’d like nothing more than to continue this effort, yet are very aware of the difficult times we’re in,” stated Carmi Orenstein, BCERF assistant director, in an e-mail.
However, Stephanie Specchio, College of Veterinary Medicine director of communications, said that although New York state should technically pass its budget on April 1, it has been delayed in the past. Specchio did not want to speculate on why the funding to Cornell’s program was not included in the budget proposal.