Late this morning, Loretta Weinberg and Linda Stender stepped up to a microphone and launched an effort to generate enough support from responsible legislators of conscience – of both parties – to override the veto of Governor Chris Christie. A letter from them both (posted after the jump) went to every legislator in both houses today.
We should have video later today – I’ll post when I get it. There was apparently a little satire prologue.
As this effort gets off the ground, Chris Christie is pulling in GOP senators who previously supported restoring the state’s funding to women’s health care centers. A simple, cold demonstration of party unity. Six senators – Diane Allen (a particular disappointment), Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Andrew Ciesla, Christopher Connors, Sean Kean and Robert Singer – all now say they would reverse their yes votes in an override because state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff convinced them that the money Democrats had earmarked to pay for the restoration would put the state’s prescription drug program in a $5.6 million deficit. And by the way, the Treasurer, who skipped a request to appear in public before the Senate Health Committee has never told the legislators why he differs with the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, who suggested the $7.5 could be generated by taking surplus cash from the state employee prescription account.
At stake is the health of more than 136,000 Jersey Girls – the number served last year by family planning centers whose funding is now in doubt. Many of those women have had nowhere else to go.
Also at stake, the number of abortions NJ’s likely to see next year if Christie’s veto holds. The legislators cite research from the Guttmacher Institute demonstrating that without family planning funding to support contraceptives, NJ will actually see an increase in abortions due to an explosion in unplanned pregnancies. Legislators who claim the pro-life mantle should think hard. Last year, these centers helped prevent 40,000 pregnancies, 19,000 abortions.
At stake, too, is access to services that include not only birth control and routine gynecological exams but also prenatal care, screenings for high blood pressure, anemia, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, and breast and cervical cancer, and critical education & outreach to people who need it.
Money’s also at stake, but it’s not Christie says. By providing publicly-funded contraceptive services, NJ saved $156M in state & federal Medicaid dollars in 2008, the legislators say, money NJ would have had to spend on pre- and post-natal care, delivery and infant care. NJ would save an estimated $4 for every $1 spent, by allocating $7.5 million, or 1/10th of 1% of the total budget. Weinberg and Stender also said they would require the state to apply for 90% match in federal dollars – funding we are eligible for right now – which would save an additional $90M over the next 5 years. Weinberg/Stender letter after the jump.
Text of the letter sent today to every NJ legislator, signed by Sen. Weinberg and Asw Stender:
August 3, 2010
On Friday, July 23, Governor Christie vetoed S-2139, legislation approved by the Senate and General Assembly to restore $7.5 million in funding for family planning and women’s health services in New Jersey.
During the Legislature’s review of the bill, we were able to identify a budget-neutral funding solution based on a nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services fiscal analysis of the surplus in the State Employee Prescription Drug program. However, the Governor’s veto message cites vague budget concerns which neither he nor the state Treasurer would elaborate on, despite being given the chance at multiple private meetings and at least one public hearing of the Senate Health Committee.
The funding in question in this bill would have gone to fund breast and gynecological cancer screening. It would have been used for pap smears, pregnancy testing and pre- and post-natal care for uninsured women with nowhere else to turn. It would have gone for HIV tests and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases. The funding would have been used for support programs for women who’ve been the victims of sexual assault.
And while funds would have been used for contraception – to allow men and women to decide for themselves when they want to start a family, and how many kids they’d like to have – not one dime would not have been used to fund abortions, contrary to the claims of some of the most vocal opponents of the legislation. Sadly, abortions will increase as a result of the governor’s veto.
The Legislature passed the bill with support from a bipartisan coalition of Legislators. Likewise, in the days since the Governor vetoed S-2139, we’ve heard from a number of prominent groups who support our attempt to override the veto, including the New Jersey League of Women Voters, the Women’s Political Caucus, Women Advocating for Good Government, the National Coalition of Jewish Women and Catholics for Choice.
In the weeks ahead, we will be personally reaching out and asking each of you to join us to override this veto. We hope we can count on your vote.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen
Assemblywoman Linda Stender, D-Union