EDISON – State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) expressed serious concern regarding Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to downsize the Division on Women. She also announced legislation to ensure that at a minimum the division’s programs and funding are maintained and preserved in the proposed reorganization.
“The Division on Women has been a pioneering state agency for nearly four decades under the leadership of both parties,” Buono said. “While I understand and appreciate the need for better coordination of state agencies, I cannot allow these programs and the women they serve to disappear in the governor’s budget.”
The governor’s plan would move the Division on Women from the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and would reduce the status of the division. Under the new Office on Women, several programmatic lines in the budget have been combined in Christie’s budget proposal.
“In 2010, when Governor Christie cut funding for family planning centers, I called on him to preserve this division as a clearinghouse of information and services for women,” Buono said. “Now he is downsizing it and playing keep-away with the details.”
DCF Commissioner Dr. Allison Blake came before the Assembly Budget Committee earlier this month and said that the division was in fact being downgraded.
Buono is currently drafting legislation that would ensure that the existing programs and services are maintained by the Office on Women in the DCF. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer) will sponsor an Assembly version of the bill.
“Commissioner Blake testified that ‘there would be no reduction in funding, services, personnel, or scope,’ but no proof of that exists in the Governor’s budget,” Buono said. “This bill ensures that the mission, programs, and funding of the Division on Women are maintained.”
“There’s no clear reorganization plan. Budget line-items for several programs have been removed,” Buono said. “The absence of facts is causing alarm at the ground floor–among the women the division serves and the men and women providing these services.”
“Last budget cycle, Gov. Christie shocked a lot of people by cutting funds at the last minute for abused children at The Wynona Lipman House,” Buono said. “No one saw that cut coming and the Governor allowed the families and employees to endure uncertainty for two weeks while he was on vacation.”
“How do we know the Office for Prevention of Violence Against Women isn’t this year’s ambush on women and those most vulnerable in our state? This bill makes sure women’s services are not targeted politically,” Buono said. “There is a political war on women going on and these services cannot be imperiled. I know the Governor’s track record and I’m being proactive.”
The Division on Women was established in 1974 and has worked to fulfill its mission of creating promoting and expanding the rights and opportunities for all women the State of New Jersey. It is currently comprised of the Office on the Prevention of Violence Against Women and the Office on Women’s Policy and Research, Support, Employment and Training. The following programs are currently managed by the Division on Women:
· Advisory Council on Domestic Violence
· Displaced Homemaker Programs
· Governor’s Advisory Council Against Sexual Violence
· New Jersey Advisory Commission on the Status of Women
· New Jersey Women’s Micro-Business Credit Program
· NJ Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board
· Rape Care & Prevention Program
· Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Program
· The Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline
· Women’s Referral Central Hotline
· Women’s Shelter Grants