In a Democratic brawl pitting the lower house leadership of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) against Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Governor Christ Christie, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) today attempted to shore up the latter with a statement of support for a bill authored by Senator Joe Vitale (D-19).
“The press is reporting on a budget ‘stalemate’ in Trenton,” Weinberg said. ” The budget has to be signed by July 1st, and we are down to the wire to reach an agreement between the Legislature and the governor.”
Christie once spoke of taking the bat out on the feisty Jewish grandmother. But in return, after slapping Christie around on Bridgegate for years, Weinberg offered an olive branch.
‘I don’t agree with the governor’s style or his negotiation tactics.,” she took pains to explain. “But I believe Senator Joe Vitale has come up with the right compromise to bring us to an appropriate solution which should satisfy the Governor and the objections of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. Some of the components in Senator Vitale’s bill have been discussed by Democrats for years. More transparency and to ensure that the Horizon is keeping its mission as a nonprofit. The ‘new’ board make-up proposed in the bill includes three of the current 11 members to be elected by shareholders.
‘Nothing in this bill will enable this Governor to do anything with regard to Horizon’s surplus,” rhe senator from Bergen added. “The transparency aspect will take effect immediately. But the authority of the state to make sure the insurer is operating as a charitable organization would not take effect until February of 2018 when we will have a new governor [hopefully Phil Murphy]. The bill also protects policyholders and the funds they have to guarantee the payment of claims to these policyholders. The budget contains millions of dollars for school funding as well as for important programs the help the most vulnerable – programs like EOF, grants for colleges, domestic violence prevention, child advocacy centers, legal services of the poor, cancer research and wage increases for direct care workers,” she added.
The senator made the case for signing a budget with Democratic priorities along with the passing of a reasonable Horizon reform bill put together by the Senate’s acknowledged expert on health issues, namely Vitale.
“Then let’s not get hung up on who is the perceived ‘winner’,” she added. “It will not be the Governor, the Senate President, or the Assembly Speaker. The real ‘winners’ in my opinion will be the taxpayers of New Jersey along with the policyholders of Horizon.”