Money is tight in the Garden State and Gov. James McGreevey has made his choices.
On his ``cut'' list is the $14 million budget for New Jersey's Commission on Science and Technology, an 18-year-old group that marries education and business to nurture technology and growth. The commission funds plastics research through Rutgers University.
The center is known for its pioneering research in plastic lumber. On Earth Day, an Edison, N.J.-based extruder officially will open the world's first all-plastic bridge, made possible through research from the Center for Advanced Materials Via Immiscible Polymer Processing, based at Rutgers. The project boasts 30,000 pounds of recycled polyethylene and polystyrene.
McGreevey's choice to eliminate CST's entire budget is a mistake. It gives the commission no chance, and compromises the future for plastic research.
McGreevey has vowed to balance the budget without raising income or sales taxes, but his proposed budget cuts will abort a long-term investment, one that will affect those same residents for years to come. It's true that states are facing their worst fiscal crisis since World War II. But governors of other states with deeper deficits are managing to preserve research and technology initiatives because they realize the importance of universities and businesses working together to find solutions. The rewards aren't immediate, but they are worthwhile. In neighboring New York, Gov. George Pataki is working to reconcile a $10 billion deficit. He made minor cuts to that state's Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research, but avoided eliminating it.
In New Jersey, money was tight last year, too, when McGreevey placed the commission on his cut list. When he began his reign in 2002, he was faced with the worst budget crisis in New Jersey's history: $3 billion for the rest of 2002, and a $6 billion budget gap for fiscal 2003. Still, the budget was balanced without raising taxes. Somehow officials funded CST.
This isn't just about plastics technology, though we wonder how often McGreevey has gone to Wharton State Forest in southern New Jersey to marvel at the all-plastic bridge. Lumber maker Polywood Inc., which made all the parts for the new bridge, located in New Jersey to be close to Rutgers. The center currently is working with other firms to commercialize its technology for bone replacement and marine piles and pallets.
These are significant accomplishments. Instead of finding useful ways to use its waste, the nation's most densely populated state will spend untold amounts filling landfills. If not reversed this costly decision will hurt New Jersey's future.
DeRosa is an Akron, Ohio-based reporter for Plastics News.