June 26, 2012 — The New Jersey Legislature has approved a bill (S 788) that would provide more than $7.4 million for family planning services and women's health programs that have seen drastic budget cuts under Gov. Chris Christie (R), NJ Today reports (NJ Today, 6/25). The Senate on Monday voted 27-10 to approve the bill, and the Assembly later approved it 45-31. The bill now advances to Christie, who is expected to veto it (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/25).
Christie's first budget as governor cut $7.5 million in funding for women's health care programs, prompting clinics to reduce hours and eliminate services such as birth control, breast exams, Pap tests, sexually transmitted infection screenings and prenatal care. In 2011, Christie vetoed a bill (SB 2139) that would have restored the $7.5 million (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/3).
The bill -- sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D), Senate Health Committee Chair Joseph Vitale (D) and Sen. Linda Greenstein (D) -- would be funded by a FY 2012 budget surplus, which is projected to be around $524 million. Christie has maintained that he opposes using state funds for family planning and women's health programs because of a lack of money.
"While we all support responsible budgeting, $7.5 million out of a more than $500 million surplus is not shirking our fiscal responsibility, and in the end, will make a difference in the lives of men and women throughout our state," Vitale said.
Greenstein added, "If the Governor is being honest that his objection to family planning funds is based on financial -- and not political -- concerns, he'll give our proposal very serious consideration" (NJ Today, 6/25).