Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New York Ends Spinal Cord Injury

New York State Budget Changes Will Scrap Spinal Cord Injury Research Board

New York’s Governor David Patterson recently put forth his 2010-2011 state budget proposal, including the phasing out of New York’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Board (SCIRB). Supporters of the program are upset over the proposed cut, saying it will make the economy suffer further and will slow down important spinal cord research, an article in the Gotham Gazette reported.

Paul Richter, a New York state trooper who suffered a spinal cord injury during a shooting, created the SCIRB in 1998. He recovered enough to walk with a cane, and since his former favorite activities are out of his reach, he said, “I’ve never got a penny for doing this. I can’t golf anymore, so I spend my time and money this way,” the Gazette reported.

The SCIRB has been funded by a surcharge applied to traffic tickets in the state of New York. The logic behind the surcharge, said Richter, was that, “most spinal cord injuries result from automobile and motorcycle accidents,” the Gazette reported. The budget office claims they need the surcharges as part of the state’s general fund to help offset New York’s $9.2 billion budget deficit. The surcharges bring in a reported $6.7 million per year.

Opponents of the budget proposal say that the state cannot reallocate the funds set aside for the SCIRB. The Gazette reported that, “The statute is written very specifically, saying that the funds must be used for spinal injury research. Someone would have to rewrite the law, and I would like to know who that is, and I would go and confront them,” said Terry O’Neill, a friend of Richter and an early supporter of the SCIRB.

Jessica Basset of the State Division of the Budget countered O’Neill’s claims by saying, “The money moves through the general fund first, and the law says a certain amount may be transferred into the (spinal cord) fund–up to $8.4 million. It provides a limit but does not provide a floor,” she told the Gazette.

The opponents and supporters of continuing the SCIRB funding from the traffic surcharges have not yet reached an agreement. Supporters of the SCIRB claim that the research funded by the group saves the state more money than it takes from the general fund, while opponents want more tangible proof. With any luck, the SCIRB will gain enough attention through the process to replace any cuts that might take place. We wish them and their supporters the best of luck in their cause.

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