New Jersey funding a space program?

May 11, 2009 4:12:36 PM PDT
Authorities in New Jersey want to know what has happened to almost a half million dollars that seems to have been lost in space.With a more than $1 billion budget deficit, the spending plan in the Garden State is getting more scrutiny than ever before.

Republican State Senator Marcia Karrow is calling for an investigation into the non-profit organization E3CO, which teaches kids about growing food in space.

Karrow says--and IRS forms show--that since 2003 over $400,000 in taxpayer money has gone toward the program despite the fact its executive director, Patricia Rowe, died a year and a half ago.

"The governor said on March 10th, he said he would scrub the budget, and now we've got a space program? The mission should be scrubbed!" said Sen. Karrow. "We don't have the time or money or inclination for nonsense like this."

Karrow is raising questions about whether the funding is politically based since the program instructor, Sara Crane, is the ex-wife of Gov. Jim Florio's chief of staff Joe Salema.

Both women donated to the campaign of former State Sen. Wayne Bryant, who was convicted on corruption charges last year.

From her home in Wenonah where E3C0 is based, Crane says she is still running the program in districts like Camden--and that her political connections have had nothing to do with funding.

Although E3CO is funded by the state through Rutgers, the university does not run it. Concerned about what was happening prompted the school to freeze the money.

Crane says contrary to reports, she has provided the school with information about budget and curriculum.

Gov. Corzine says E3CO was once a federal program and when it ran out, the state decided to fund it. But today he said "no more".

"I don't really understand why New Jersey is in the business of a space program," Gov. Corzine said. "I can assure you it will not be funded either in 2009 or 2010.

Without state money, the organization will have to find a new funding source in order to survive.

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