Daily Archives: September 21, 2010
When Governor Christie vetoed legislation last month that would have provided $7.5 million in funding for 58 family planning clinics across the state, he said he did so because the state could not afford to fund the program.
That should hardly surprise anyone.
The non-partisan Office of Legislative Services earlier this year estimated that the state has lost $5.5 billion in revenue the past two years because of the faltering economy. It has nothing to do with spending. It is entirely the result of a devastating erosion of the state’s tax collections across the board by nearly 20 percent.
If anybody still believes that the state’s finances have been beset by profligate spending, that revenue number alone should be as bracing as a bucket of ice water.
Even the governor recognizes that the state has a revenue problem. His own words in vetoing $7.5 million for family planning clinics confirm that the state’s financial decline is directly attributable to the anorexic tax collections in every single revenue category over the past three years.
The governor was almost apologetic in his veto message in acknowledging that the state simply does not have the necessary means to finance these clinics, which have become a vital component of the state’s health care infrastructure. Last year, the clinics served 136,000 people. Of that total, more than 97,000 had no health insurance at all. The clinics provided 65,252 pap tests and 70,507 breast exams for women who have few if any other health care options.
The state just doesn’t have the wherewithal to cover the cost, Governor Christie said, even though every $1 spent by the state can be matched by as much as $9 in additional federal health care funding or save the state $4 in other health care costs. “Unfortunately, in these unprecedented fiscal times, the state simply cannot fund every worthy program,” he wrote.
The governor didn’t say this is a frivolous program. In fact, he said it is “worthy.” Nor did he say that the state should not be spending money on health care for women, just that the state cannot afford to do so right now. The economic times are so tough right now the state doesn’t even have the capacity to provide something as fundamental as basic health care services for poor women. “It would be patently irresponsible to approve any additional spending,” the governor wrote.
Today, the Senate will vote on whether to over-ride the governor’s veto of S2139.
The bill originally sailed through the Senate with a 30-10 majority. Seven of the 17 Republicans joined all 23 Democrats in support of the funding. After the governor’s veto, though, six of the seven Republicans who had voted in favor of the funding said they would not countermand the governor’s wishes and would not vote for a veto over-ride, which requires a two-thirds majority (27 votes). The Republicans said they agree with the governor, the state simply doesn’t have the money to pay for health care for poor women.
It should be clear from the governor’s words and the Republican caucuses’ own words what fiscal analysts have been saying all along. New Jersey does not have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem. And that revenue problem is as bad as it has ever been.
The veto ought to make it quite obvious to all that the state lacks sufficient income from tax collections to sustain the high quality of life and community values that New Jersey residents want. It’s not as if the budget is being trimmed of fat. These are not luxuries that the state can do without. For the past year there has been a steady mantra that there is just not enough money to fully fund schools; police and fire departments; libraries; parks; road and bridge repairs; transit; or even a pap test for a 40-year-old woman who doesn’t have health insurance.
More than a display of politics, the veto of S2139 shows that without greater resources, New Jersey – one of the wealthiest states in the nation – is destined to become a place where classrooms are more crowded, police are slower to respond to 9-1-1 calls and women without health insurance have nowhere to go for basic health care and family planning needs.