New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed bills to fund family planning clinics, health insurance for low-income adults and a tax-incentive program for homebuyers, saying it would be irresponsible to approve additional expenses the state cannot afford.
"State spending has been reset to levels that the taxpayers can afford," Christie wrote Friday in his veto message to the Legislature. "Supplemental spending that would return to the unchecked spending and out-of-control budget shortfalls of the past will not make it past the governor's desk."
The bills were sent to the Republican governor after he signed a $29.4 billion budget, which the Legislature passed. Democrats vowed to push for overrides.
Christie said the additional spending wasn't part of the bipartisan budget agreement that slashed aid to schools and municipalities and suspended property tax rebates.
Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald said neither was the state takeover of services in Atlantic City's casino district that Christie announced Thursday, or the $875 million in state financial help he wants to pour into the Xanadu entertainment complex in the Meadowlands.
Greenwald said New Jersey's economy is continuing to sputter even as surrounding states show signs of recovery. New housing permits are at a 40-year low here, he said.
The bill would have provided up to $15,000 in tax credits for buyers of new or existing homes at a cost of $33 million per year for three years. Greenwald said the investment would have paid for itself many times over by putting building trades employees back to work and generating additional sales and income tax revenue.
Women's health care advocates pressed the governor to put back $7.5 million in state funding for 58 family planning centers around the state. Christie's budget eliminated all state funding for the centers, about a quarter of their total budgets. The clinics also get money from the federal government and private sources.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Linda Stender said the money to pay for the restoration could come from overbudgeted employee prescription drug program. Christie, however, questioned the legitimacy of the funding source.
"It's a sad day when the governor of the State of New Jersey decides to put political ideology ahead of the health and safety of women and men across the Garden State," Weinberg said.
She then asked how Christie was able to find $65 million in the budget to make up for sales tax revenue that would have been realized from lifting Bergen County's ban on Sunday shopping or $5 million when he decided against charging businesses additional filing fees.
Though the bill spelled out that no state money would be used to pay for abortions, New Jersey Right to Life executive director Marie Tasy applauded Christie's veto for "freeing New Jersey taxpayers from complicity" with abortion providers.
The third vetoed bill would have restored $24 million in state funds to the FamilyCare health insurance program for low-income residents. The money would have allowed 39,000 parents who enroll their children into the program rather than freezing them out. FamilyCare will serve 650,000 children and 260,000 adults in this fiscal year.
"Not only are these vetoes inhumane, they also make little fiscal sense when you consider that the state will face much larger health care costs in terms of providing medical care for the uninsured," said Sen. Joe Vitale, the bill's main sponsor.
Twenty-six votes would be needed in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly to override the governor's vetoes. The Senate has 23 Democrats and 17 Republicans; the Assembly has 46 Democrats and 33 Republicans with one vacant seat.
When the Legislature voted in June, the homebuyer tax credit bill had enough votes to override the veto and the family planning bill had enough votes in the Senate. The FamilyCare bill passed in a party-line vote.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver called the bills "vitally important to women's health care, children, our economy and working-class New Jerseyans," and said she expected to work with the Senate to put the votes up for override votes.
Senate President Steve Sweeney was out of town and couldn't be reached for comment.