Says Administration Has Been “Less Than Forthcoming” Regarding Women’s Health Funding, Seeks Info to Craft Bipartisan Funding Solution
TRENTON –State Senator Loretta Weinberg, one of the prime sponsors of legislation which would restore $7.5 million in funding for women’s health and family planning programs in New Jersey, today filed three Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests with the State Treasurer to find out more information regarding the Administration’s fiscal objections to the budget-neutral funding source identified in her bill.
“From Day One, the Christie Administration has been less than forthcoming with regard to their objections on vital women’s health funding,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “If they have a concern about the budget source identified by nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services staff as surplus funds, then they should be working Assemblywoman (Linda) Stender and me in a bipartisan fashion to replace that funding with a more workable solution. Instead, all we’ve gotten from the Administration is vague budgetary concerns which allude to actuarial information and budgetary projections which were never shared with anyone on our side of the aisle in the Legislature.
“These OPRA requests represent an opportunity for the Christie Administration to either produce the documents that suggest that our funding is flawed, or admit that Governor Christie opposes women’s health programs because of his out-of-touch, far-right political ideology,” added Senator Weinberg.
Senator Weinberg’s bill, S-2139, which was approved by the Legislature in June but vetoed by the Governor in July, would tap surplus funds in the State Employee Prescription Drug Program to restore $7.5 million in funding for women’s health and family planning programs which was cut from the FY 2011 State Budget by Governor Christie. The funding in question would help women and men access basic health services at women’s health centers and family planning clinics around the State, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, screening for high blood pressure and anemia, HIV testing, treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases, pre- and post-natal medical care, and contraception. The funding would not be used to pay for abortions.
On August 2, 2010 – more than a month after Legislative approval, and after refusing numerous invitations to meet with lawmakers in public and in private to discuss the funding in the bill – Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff released a letter to the press indicating his concerns with the funding source in the bill. Senator Weinberg noted that beyond the Treasurer’s vague 3-paragraph letter, which alludes to actuarial information which has never been provided to the Legislature, Treasury has produced no other information opposing S-2139. Senator Weinberg wrote the Treasurer back on August 2, but has received no follow-up information.
“If the Treasurer can’t bring himself to work with us to identify funding solutions for critical women’s health programs, than we’ll use the tools at our disposal to access public information and hopefully dispel the myth that our funding source doesn’t work,” said Senator Weinberg, who added that the bill also includes a provision requiring New Jersey to apply for a 9-1 federal match on women’s health services qualifying for extended Medicaid coverage – a provision which would actually increase federal funding for New Jersey. “As we continue to urge our legislative colleagues to override the Governor’s short-sighted veto, we will also look at the possibility of revamping our funding source to make it more workable for Governor Christie and his Administration. Whatever happens, we have to find a way to preserve health services for women who would have nowhere else to turn.”