TRENTON – Here we go.
S-4, the Horizon restructuring bill, came up finally on the Senate Budget Committee this evening, creating a stir in the room as state Senator Joe Vitale (D-19), chair of the senate health and human services committee, introduced it for discussion and consideration.
The place was standing room only with people, many of them here to expression opposition to the controversial bill. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), who had asked Vitale to put together the legislation as a way to break a budget stalemate, sat in on the committee alongside state Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33).
The senator said he wasn’t comfortable with the $300 million grab first sought by Governor Chris Christie from Horizon reserves to fund his budget priorities. “I thought it was inappropriate, still do, and so I met with Horizon several weeks ago and they explained to me what the reserve looks like,” Vitale said.
His legislation would set up a mechanism by which the state could use reserves.
“If they exceed what it is they actually continue to deserve then those resources through this bill would be established in consolidation with the Department of Health and would be incorporated,” he said.
The money would go to treasury and the legislature would be in position to allocate those funds.
“This is by no means a slush fund, by no means a money grab,” Vitale insisted.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo quizzed his colleague on some of the more contentious news points that have lately dominated Horizon-related headlines.
“The $300 million does not exist?” Sarlo wondered.
“It does not exist,” said the senator who authored the bill.