Gov. Chris Christie signed three vetoes today, one of which was for a Democrat-backed civil service reform bill that the governor said “completely fail(ed) to provide real reform to help control workforce costs and property taxes.”
Christie also issued an absolute veto of A3273, which would have expanded Medicaid program participation by the state.
It would have, according to a press release, “worsened the considerable financial issues facing New Jersey’s Medicaid program and undermined the fiscal year 2011 budget agreement enacted in June.”
A third send-back was a conditional veto of A3415, a Barnegat Bay bill, that the governor said has “unrealistic” conditions.
One of the main tools in Christie’s municipal toolkit, civil service reform had been the lingering big ticket item from his campaign last year to lower municipal property taxes.
The bill did not include “the critically needed opt-out and furlough options” for municipalities, the governor’s office said.
“The bill seeks to pacify special interests by leaving out the most effective provisions and adding others that, by omission or inclusion, completely fail to provide real reform to help control workforce costs and property taxes,” the governor’s office said.
“This bill represents tepid, ineffective, and meaningless change,” Christie remarked in his veto message.
The governor also noted that the legislature’s “much-touted” Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC), which eases municipal consolidation and shared services, believes civil service seniority-protection rules are “among the most significant barriers” to shared services between municipalities.
Democrats responded to the governor’s civil service veto this afternoon.
State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said, “The Governor’s action today is certainly disappointing. The Legislature made clear that we would be willing partners on this issue and we did our part to move forward on civil service reform. This was legislation that would continue to safeguard against nepotism and political corruption while modernizing and streamlining the civil service system. It would have implemented policies into the public sector that have been effective in the private sector and it was supported by such groups as the New Jersey Association of Counties.
“Reform means more than just catchy political sound bites that look good on YouTube. It requires action, though certainly not the kind we saw by the Governor today,” Sweeney said. “His decision has simply placed a roadblock to real reform.”
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) said, “Much like with his recent veto of legislation to reform our affordable housing system, the Governor prefers to forego consensus building and defy the broad agreement we have reached with nearly all of the invested stakeholders.”
On the Medicaid bill, the governor’s office said the state’s Medicaid program is already facing “a huge budget shortfall” of nearly $1.1 billion in FY2012.
“This bill would exacerbate that dramatic budget gap by expanding the Medicaid program and increasing Medicaid costs completely outside the State’s annual budget process,” Christie said. “It would be financially irresponsible to increase Medicaid costs and expand Medicaid eligibility in the face of such a serious deficit in the Medicaid program and the ongoing budgetary challenges faced by the state generally.
The Barnegat Bay bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt a standard, total maximum daily loads (TMDL), for the Barnegat Bay ecosystem within two years and to require the DEP to adopt nutrient standards for New Jersey marine waters.
“While the objective of the proposed bill complements Governor Christie’s 10-point Comprehensive Barnegat Bay Plan announced in December,” his office said, “many of the timeframes and requirements mandated by the bill are not realistic or doable with existing resources, and it does not account for the need for more science and data to back up the decision on whether to set up a TMDL.”