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NJ: Gov. Christie Vetoes Bill Restoring $7.5M Grant for Family Planning

TRENTON — Saying “the state simply cannot fund every worthy program,” Gov. Chris Christie today vetoed a bill that would have restored $7.5 million for family planning clinics that provide birth control and health screenings to thousands of uninsured women.

Christie also cited budget woes to veto measures creating a $100 million home buyer tax credit program and shifting $24.6 million from the hospital charity care fund to enroll 39,000 working poor parents in the FamilyCare health insurance plan.

Christie said the tight budget hit “worthwhile programs” and it was important to cut spending “to levels that the taxpayers can afford. Unchecked spending and out of control budget shortfalls of the past will not make it past the governor’s desk.”

Democrats who control the Legislature said they are weighing whether to seek an override on the bills, which would require 54 votes in the 80-member Assembly and 27 in the 40-member Senate.

“My inclination is that I expect to work with the Senate to put these bills back up for veto overrides,’’ said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex). “These bills are vitally important to women’s health care, children, our economy and working class New Jerseyans.”

Although Christie said he opposed family planning bill purely on budgetary grounds, his decision is likely to stoke an ongoing ideological debate among conservative Republicans on whether the state ought to financially support clinics run by Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and birth control — an issue brought up several times by Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris), the Republican state Committee chairman.

“The taxpayers of New Jersey are under no obligation to fund the radical and failed social agenda of Planned Parenthood,’’ said Marie Tasy, executive director for New Jersey Right to Life. “We commend Governor Christie for his steadfast opposition to restoring these funds.”

Michele Jaker, executive director of the Family Planning Association of New Jersey, said she was “outraged” by the governor’s decision. “Do we really live in a state that walks away from tens of millions of federal dollars simply because it funds women’s health care?” she said.

Sponsors of the family planning grant bill insisted the money was not new spending because it could have come from a $205 million state employee prescription drug account the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services says Christie had over-budgeted.

Christie disagreed, saying he would not put “the prescription drug benefits of state employees at risk.’’ He also said there are other state-funded clinics and health centers to assist low-income women meet their health needs.

In vetoing the homebuyers bill, which would have provided tax benefits for those buying homes over the next three years, Christie said any economic growth it spurs “would be limited” and that it was not worth a $100 million investment.

Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) disagreed, saying “New Jersey has stagnated’’ in home construction compared to Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York. “The only way to get out of it is to give people incentives,’’ he said. “If you want to stimulate the economy it’s as simple as building a house."

Vetoing all three bills at once for budget reasons could give Christie political cover “for those who claim that his veto of the family planning money was ideological,” said Patrick Murray, polling director at Monmouth University. But he noted some Republicans voted yes for the home buyer tax credit. “How can they override the veto on one but not the other?” he said.

This article was published by NJ.com on July 24th, 2010 and was written by Susan K. Livio.