WEINBERG & STENDER: REPORTS ON THE DEATH OF WOMEN’S HEALTH FUNDING OVERRIDE EXAGGERATED

TRENTON, NJ – Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Linda Stender, the leading advocates for the restoration of women’s health funding in the State Legislature, said today that the reports of the death of the override attempt of the Governor’s veto for women’s health funding have been exaggerated. They added that they will continue reaching out to legislative colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to urge them to support the legislative override.

“I think it’s premature to sound the death knell on women’s health funding, particularly when we just kicked off the campaign to encourage support for an override yesterday,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “When our bill, S-2139, was approved by the Legislature in June, it received bipartisan support in the Senate. We will continue to appeal to lawmakers of good conscience on both sides of the political divide, because failure on this override would be a catastrophe of epic proportions for health care in New Jersey.”

“For our part, this battle’s not over until the vote is taken, and legislators are called on to either stand with us, or against uninsured women in New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Stender, D-Union, Somerset and Middlesex. “The opponents of this legislation need to understand that without the restoration of funds for women’s health centers and family planning clinics, this is going to cost taxpayers more money and increase abortions. It will also lead to less access to care. Not only does funding for women’s health programs make health care sense, but it makes fiscal sense as well.”

The lawmakers held a news conference yesterday to announce a push for a legislative override on the Governor’s July 23 veto of S-2139, legislation which would have restored $7.5 million in funding for women’s health programs which was cut from the FY 2011 State Budget. Immediately before the start of the news conference, Senate Republicans distributed a news release indicating that six of the seven Republican legislators who sided with women’s health initiatives when the bill was approved in June would be voting against an override attempt. Senator Weinberg and Assemblywoman Stender believe that the six GOP lawmakers who turned against women’s health were likely strong-armed by party leaders who are ideologically opposed to women’s health funding.

“The six Republicans who found political courage the first time S-2139 was up in the Senate will be one of our primary targets for our educational campaign on women’s health,” said Senator Weinberg. “These folks have flip-flopped once when presented with what we believe to be incomplete information from the State Treasurer. Hopefully, when presented with more accurate information regarding the impact of the Governor’s cuts to women’s health, these folks will find the courage to do the right thing once again when S-2139 comes up for an override vote.”

“The news release issued by Senate Republicans yesterday has not crushed our hopes of an override,” said Assemblywoman Stender. “If anything, it’s re-energized our cause, and provided proof that we’re going to have to work harder than ever to dispel the myths about women’s health funding which have been perpetuated by the opponents of the bill.”

Senator Weinberg and Assemblywoman Stender also said that they will continue to review the Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff’s budgetary information, and have asked him to provide more complete details of his objections to the bill. The Treasurer released a letter yesterday, more than a month after the bill was approved by the Legislature, citing unspecific and vague actuarial concerns for the State employee prescription drug program. S-2139 would have used surplus funds in the prescription drug program – identified by an independent analysis by the Office of Legislative Services that is never addressed in the Treasurer’s three-paragraph letter – to restore funding for women’s health programs.

“Certainly we will continue to review the Treasurer’s information – whatever information he may provide,” said Assemblywoman Stender. “But not funding this program will cost the state more money by losing the federal matching funds. We’re willing to work with Governor Christie and the Treasurer to find a more palatable funding Dest if need be.”

“Governor Christie has been able to restore more than $70 million in funds to areas which would have garnered him votes on him budget, simply by revising revenue and collection estimates,” added Senator Weinberg. “$7.5 million is not a heavy lift when you consider that the consequences of zero funding will include hundreds of millions of dollars in excessive costs in the State’s health care safety net, and thousands of unplanned pregnancies and abortions which could have been avoided in New Jersey.”