May 3, 2012 — A group of female senators who serve on New Jersey's Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee suggested using $6 million from a jobs training program to bolster women's health care programs that received drastic budget cuts under Gov. Chris Christie (R), NJ Today reports.
Labor Commissioner Hal Wirths told members of the budget committee that the jobs training program, which is intended to train minorities and women in construction trades, has been underutilized because of a slow down in the building trades industries. Under Christie's fiscal year 2012 budget proposal, $6 million in unused funds from the program would return to the General Fund.
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) said the committee's first priority should be to restore past cuts to women's health care programs.
"Rather than funnel unused job training dollars back into the General Budget, the unused funds should instead be invested in women's health care for women who have been unable to find work in the current job market," Weinberg said, adding, "When Governor Christie drastically cut funding for women's health care in the last two State budgets, he made it more difficult for women to access the tests and treatments which can save lives."
Christie's first budget in office cut $7.5 million in funding for women's health care programs (NJ Today, 5/1). The funding cut caused family planning clinics that provide preventive and reproductive health care services including birth control, breast exams, Pap tests, sexually transmitted disease screenings and prenatal care to reduce hours and eliminate services. In 2011, Christie vetoed a bill (SB 2139) that would have restored the $7.5 million (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/13/11).
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D) said, "As unemployed women are finding it harder and harder to access basic health services, we need to strengthen our State's safety net to make sure that no one gets left behind. If the [jobs training program] is being underutilized, let's put those dollars where the demand is, and fund women's health care. In addition to doing the right thing by our State's struggling women, investing in women's health care would also leverage up to a 9-to-1 match from the federal government on health care expenses attributed to Medicaid-eligible women."
State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D) added, "The Governor has repeatedly said that the funds aren't there, but by using surplus funds within a program designed to provide job training to women, we can get more back from the federal government than we put in. This is the right thing to do to protect women and ensure we're getting a better return on our federal dollars" (NJ Today, 5/1).