TRENTON – Senate Democrats have been unsuccessful in their attempts to overturn Gov. Chris Christie’s line-item vetoes of spending items in New Jersey’s current fiscal year budget.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) placed 39 resolutions on today’s voting agenda to restore specific spending items cut by the governor. Both the Senate and Assembly would need to approve the resolutions by a two-thirds majority to overturn the governor’s vetoes. Since the Democrats do not have a two-thirds majority in either chamber of the Legislature, they need bi-partisan support.
So far, they’re not getting it. Before today’s session started, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) told members of the press, “We are here for one reason and one reason only- the Democratic Majority saw more value in passing a political, election-year budget that was illegal and unbalanced from the minute it was introduced than in negotiating a budget with the Governor and Legislative Republicans.”
“And so today’s override votes are really worse than political theater- they’re offensive. They had the chance do to this properly by negotiating a budget- and they deliberately chose not to,” Kean said. “Today’s override session isn’t about public policy- it’s about glossy ‘gotcha’ mailers and TV ads for the fall campaign.”
Fifteen resolutions came up for a vote today, including measures to restore funding for the Wyonna M. Lipman Child Advocacy Center, legal aid for the poor, family planning services grants and an AIDS drug distribution program. Most of the votes have gone along 24-15 along party lines, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the Governor’s vetoes.
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) voted with Democrats to restore the family planning cuts, but that measure still failed by a 25-14 vote.
The Senate is expected to vote on the remaining resolutions tomorrow.
After the Senate failed to override the Governor’s veto of restrictions on what elements the state could seek in a federal Medicaid Waiver application, two Middlesex County Democrats expressed dissapointment.
“The Governor’s line-item veto of the Medicaid Waiver language was cruel and vindictive, and puts New Jersey’s working poor in jeopardy of losing access to health care,” said state Sen. Barbara Buono.
“I’m disappointed, and frankly, shocked that not one of my colleagues in the Republican caucus had the courage to buck their party and do the right thing to preserve Medicaid,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale. “This is a program designed specifically to make sure that everyone has access to quality health care, regardless of personal income or medical necessity. If we can’t stand up for our most vulnerable residents through this budget, we’ve failed the constituents who’ve elected us to represent their interests in State government.”
According to the senators, under the Administration’s proposed rule change through the Comprehensive Medicaid waiver, income eligibility for Medicaid and New Jersey Family Care would be reduced from 133% of the federal poverty level, or $29,726 a year for a family of four, to just 25% of the federal poverty level, or $5,588 a year in income for a family of four.
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