In first law as governor, Murphy to spend more on women’s health
At a ceremony Wednesday at the Trenton War Memorial, Gov. Phil Murphy will sign his first bills into law – allocating additional funding for women’s health clinics and expanding Medicaid coverage for family planning services.
The main bill, S120, restores nearly $7.5 million to the state budget that was eliminated in 2010 by Gov. Chris Christie, who then vetoed repeated efforts to restore it.
“Restoring this funding won’t immediately, and we all know this, undo the damage of the collective $60-plus million that Gov. Christie vetoed over his eight years, but turning our state around to stand again for the right values starts here and it starts now,” Murphy said Monday, speaking to Planned Parenthood activists on a telephone town-hall meeting.
The second bill, S105, would expand Medicaid coverage for family planning services to people with incomes between 138 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold. The federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs for the services.
Murphy said the $7.453 million supplemental appropriation will reverse a cut in funding that led to the closure of six health clinics and a rise in sexually transmitted infections.
He said women’s health will be fully funded in the budget he’ll propose March 13 and that he’ll make an additional announcement tomorrow about family planning policy.
“So it is just simply the right thing to do, not just for the sake of being the right thing, but it’s also the smart thing to do,” Murphy said.
The bill got some Republican votes in the Legislature, in passing the Senate 29-10 and the Assembly 47-20-6. Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, said it could have gotten more votes if Planned Parenthood officials didn’t refuse to answer questions about how the money would be used.
“I was told repeatedly that they’re in the process of developing a plan,” Munoz said. “Well, most people develop a plan, then ask for money. Most people don’t ask for money, then develop a plan.”
Officials from the organization didn’t answer the questions at two Assembly hearings and didn’t return a phone call Munoz made to its leader.
“I don’t know if it’s incompetence of their political director. I don’t know if it’s smugness,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen. “But the lack of respect for us as legislators was appalling.”
National politics won’t be just a subtle subtext at Wednesday’s signing ceremony, when the national president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, will be on hand. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would bar funding from Planned Parenthood.
“We need to do what’s best for New Jersey’s women and families, and we will,” Murphy said. “So we will defend, attack if we have to and if need be compensate because there’s no other choice for us.”
Murphy also said Monday he would fill out his Cabinet this week. He still needs to appoint people to head the Motor Vehicle Commission, State Police and Civil Service Commission, as well as pick a higher education secretary.
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