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New Jersey Family Planning Programs Lose $7.5 Million Dollars in State Funding

The final attempt to salvage $7.5 million in family planning funding that serves 58 programs in New Jersey was defeated in late September when the State Senate failed to receive the two-thirds vote it needed to override Governor Chris Christie’s (R) veto of a bill that would have restored the funding. The vetoed bill, which was first introduced after Governor Christie, citing budget concerns, eliminated the $7.5 million in state allocations for Fiscal Year 2011, would have allocated a surplus from the state’s employee drug program to cover the eliminated funding.[1] “[This] means there is enough to pay for [the family planning program] without new taxes or fees . . . it’s redirecting existing funds,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D–Union).[2] The bill originally passed 30–10 in the Senate and 42–22 in the State Assembly. [3]
 
This was the second time Governor Christie moved to eliminate funding from family planning programs by vetoing the approved bill. The subsequent legislative attempt to defeat the override failed 23–17 along party lines.[4] Though seven Republicans had initially supported the bill and only four of those votes were needed to overturn the veto, none of those seven Republicans ultimately voted to override the veto. A few weeks before the vote, six of the Senators signed a press release that indicated intentions to vote against overriding the veto. The release suggested that the quote on the surplus was inaccurate and stated that “if [the Senate] calls for a veto override of S-2139, we will vote to support maintaining a balanced budget and ensure there is continued access to prescription medicines for families.”[5]
 
The original quote on the state prescription fund surplus was made by the Office of Legislative Services. State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, who the six senators cited, disputes those numbers. In response, State Senator Loretta Weinberg (D–Bergen) filed an Open Public Records Act request, which was rejected due to the fact that the figures were unaudited and not public because they are advisory and deliberative. “They made a policy decision on unaudited figures?” Weinberg countered.[6]
 
Though this particular battle over the funds seems to have ended, new avenues are being explored. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D–Gloucester) said Democrats will continue to attempt to restore the funding and made mention of $5 million in unspent funds from last year that could be redirected into family planning centers.[7] Unfortunately, at least one Planned Parenthood clinic has already closed, in Cherry Hill. At least two other family planning clinics in Burlington are expected to close by late November.[8]
 
“The Senate Republicans stood with the extreme right-wing of their party instead of standing with the women of New Jersey. Not only did this bill have its own funding source, but it allowed the state to leverage significant federal funding for these services,” commented Michele Jaker, executive director of the Family Planning Association of New Jersey and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of New Jersey. “Investing in women’s health is not only good policy, it helps save money . . . the money ‘saved’ by eliminating family planning funding in New Jersey will actually end up costing taxpayers more than $30 million in Medicaid expenses—not to mention the millions of federal dollars now left sitting on the table. It is baffling that Senators who claims to oppose this bill on budgetary grounds would be so short-sighted.”[9]
 
 

 


[1] Susan K. Livio, “N.J. Assembly Restores $7.5M for Family Planning Clinics Serving Uninsured Women,” Statehouse Bureau, 29 June 2010, accessed 14 October 2010, <http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/06/nj_assembly_restores_75m_in_bu.html>.
[2] “Restore Funding for Family Planning; It’s a Matter of Health,” Editorial, Star-Ledger, 2 June 2010, accessed 14 October 2010, <http://blog.nj.com/njv_editorial_page/2010/06/restore_funding_for_family_pla.html>.
[3] Livio, “N.J. Assembly Restores $7.5M for Family Planning Clinics Serving Uninsured Women.”
[4] Adrienne Lu, “N.J. Family-Planning Funding Still Vetoed,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 September 2010, accessed 14 October 2010, <http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20100921_N_J__family-planning_funding_still_vetoed.html>.
[5] Matt Friedman, “N.J. GOP Lawmakers Who Voted to Restore Family Planning Funds Refuse to Override Christie’s Veto,” Statehouse Bureau, 3 August 2010,accessed 14 October 2010, <http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/08/six_nj_republican_lawmakers_wh.html>.
[6] “N.J. Senate Fails to Override Gov. Christie's Veto of $7.5M in Family Planning Funds,” Statehouse Bureau,20 September 2010, accessed 14 October 2010, <http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/09/nj_senate_fails_to_override_go.html>.
[7] Lu, “N.J. Family-Planning Funding Still Vetoed.”
[8] Adrienne Lu, “N.J. Family Planning Centers Feel State Cuts,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 September 2010, accessed 14 October 2010, <http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/20100923_N_J__family_planning_centers_feel_state_cuts.html>.
[9] Planned Parenthood Affliates of New Jersey, “Statement on Veto Override for Women’s Health,” Press Release published 20 September 2010, accessed 27 October 2010, <http://www.plannedparenthoodnj.org/whm/news/articles/20100920_statementonvetooverridevote>,

 

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