After nearly a month of waiting and support from several prominent Dmeocrats including Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill that would restore family planning funding to the budget.
The bill has been championed by several female lawmaker, most notably Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Linda Stender. The lawmakers had lobbied for weeks for Christie to sign the measure, even finding money to pay for the $7.5 million appropriation.
In a release several assembly members called the veto cruel and heartless.
“Restoring these programs would have saved lives and money and kept New Jerseyans – especially women – from needlessly dying from diseases that can be treated with proper screening, but Goc. Christie clearly has another agenda,” Stender said.
Weinberg alos had harsh words for the governor, saying Christie had put ideology ahead of women’s health.
“Governor Christie has sided with conservative politics against the women of the Garden State,” Weinberg said. “However, despite this setback, we will push for a veto override. The bill was approved by a veto-proof majority in the Senate, and I believe we can win more support in the Assembly in an override attempt.”
The bill was approved 40 to 10 in the senate, a margin that would overcome the veto. But it only garnered 42 votes in the assembly, enough to pass, but far below the number needed to override the veto.
In his veto message, the governor outlined several programs already included in the budget to provide healthcare for women, including those of low income. The governor also disputed the lawmakers’ assertion that the restoration of the funds would be budget neutral. The sponsors said they found the money in a prescription drug line item that was over funded.
“The sponsors of the legislation claim that there is $7,453,000 available in the State Employees Prescription Drug Program Account,” Christie wrote. “Based on the information provided to me by the Treasury Department’s Office of Management and Budget the sponsors’ assertion is incorrect.”
Diverting that money, Christie continued, would put the account below the level cited by the state’s actuaries to ensure that all claims are paid.
Christie initially had philosophical differences with the family planning funds and several of the discussions centered around abortion. But abortion funding was eventually removed form the mix, leaving the governor to focus his veto on finances.
The family planning centers provided health care to some 140,000 uninsured resident last year and the lawmakers had stressed that they provide much needed services for women including pap smears and mammograms.