New Jersey's 13th Legislative District

Senator Declan O'Scanlon

Senator Declan O'Scanlon

O’Scanlon: Assembly’s Health Department Budget Hearing Raised More Questions Than It Answered

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Says Commissioner Persichilli Must Appear Before Senate Budget Committee

Senator Declan O’Scanlon said the appearance of the Department of Health before the Assembly Budget Committee was a facade, noting the commissioner didn’t answer some very simple questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is being managed.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon said the appearance of the Department of Health before the Assembly Budget Committee was a facade, noting the commissioner didn’t answer some very simple questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is being managed. (©iStock)

“Commissioner Persichilli couldn’t even give a clear answer about what metrics are being used to make critical decisions that impact people’s lives and livelihoods,” said O’Scanlon (R-13). “Right now, how Governor Murphy is using public health indicators to guide reopenings remains top secret. That’s unacceptable. New Jersey residents deserve to know what the secret formula is that’s controlling their lives, if there even is a real formula.

“What we know for sure, is that the Governor’s seemingly random, slow-roll reopening continues to be the most draconian in the Northeast. Virtually every other state is way ahead of us in opening restaurants – at 50% to 100% – with no apparent negative health impact. These policies are destroying thousands of business and tens of thousands of jobs.

“From the sound of the Commissioner’s evasive answer as to metrics, it appears we’re being guided by someone’s gut feeling on these destructive fronts. The Governor should fire whoever’s gut is telling to him to devastate so much of our economy and simply follow the wise policies and decisions of those competently running the rest of the states in the Northeast!”

O’Scanlon’s comments followed testimony provided yesterday by Health Commissioner Judy Persichelli disclosing that there are approximately ten unique health metrics that guide the administration’s decision making. Assembly republican budget members pressed the commissioner, however the DOH either failed to provide answers or avoided answering the questions asked.

“While some of the health data that factors into the Murphy Administration’s executive orders may be scattered across various websites, it’s never been clear exactly what data is being looked at or what the benchmarks are,” added O’Scanlon. “The Department of Health must share this with the public immediately so families and employers can make smart decisions and better plan for their futures.”

Governor Murphy has never discussed in detail the methodology that guides his decisions to open or close certain industries or venues or to change various restrictions imposed through his executive orders.

On June 7, for example, Gov. Murphy defied his own executive orders regarding public gatherings. Facing backlash, he raised the limit on gathering two days later with little explanation about what changed.

On August 29, police entered a restaurant that Gov. Murphy was dining at that was in violation of his own executive orders. Within days, the governor announced that restaurants may resume indoor dining at 25% capacity.

According to published reports, Governor Murphy has failed to communicate with three of his top public health experts prior to formulating key policy-making decisions. This includes the abrupt reversal of his decision to reopen indoor dining, the outdoor mask mandate, and school reopening plans.

O’Scanlon, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, said it’s imperative that he and other committee members have the opportunity to question Health Commissioner Persichelli in detail.

While the regular process of budget hearings requires each executive branch department to appear before the budget committees of both the Senate and General Assembly prior to the adoption of the following year’s budget, no such hearing has been planned in the Senate for the Department of Health.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s critical that the Senate Budget Committee have the opportunity to meet with Department of Health to ensure taxpayer resources are being utilized effectively,” said O’Scanlon. “We also deserve the opportunity to ask the questions that need to be answered for our constituents. For the general public who thinks the Murphy Administration isn’t being transparent about how this crisis is being managed, this is one more example that they’re right.”

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