Read this article as it originally appeared on politico.com on Jan. 4, 2018
By KATIE JENNINGS
EWING — Gov.-elect Phil Murphy said Wednesday that New Jersey “must help lead the fight” against attempts by congressional Republicans to cut funding for safety net programs as he announced his nominations to lead the state agencies that serve low-income children, families, seniors, and people with physical and developmental disabilities.
“We need strong leadership that understands that even one person falling through a hole in the safety net is one too many,” Murphy said at an event in Ewing. “That job is getting tougher in the face of federal policies that can potentially push those already at the margin further from our grasps.”
Carole Johnson, a former senior health policy adviser to President Barack Obama, is Murphy’s pick to lead the Department of Human Services, the state's largest agency.
The department administers Medicaid, which provides health insurance to more than 1.7 million low-income residents. Nearly $10 billion of the department’s $18 billion budget comes from the federal government.
Christine Norbut Beyer, Murphy’s choice to lead the Department of Children and Families, previously served as an assistant commissioner at the department, which is still working to exit more than a decade of federal oversight.
Murphy, who takes office Jan. 16, said the appointments are "two of the most consequential positions in state government with the lives and dignity of countless New Jerseyans in the balance."
The state, he said, “can no longer stand silent but must help to lead the fight against cuts to Medicaid and take the Republican leadership in Congress and President [Donald] Trump to task for their failures,” including the failure of Congress to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, he said.
Around a half-million adult New Jersey residents gained health insurance coverage through Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the cost of which was largely picked up by the federal government.
Another 113,000 children in the state are covered by the CHIP, which provides health insurance to children whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Congress passed a stopgap spending bill at the end of December that funds the program through March.
“We have to be prepared for all contingencies,” Johnson said of the uncertainty surrounding CHIP funding and repeated attempts by congressional Republicans to repeal Obamacare. But she also expressed confidence the status quo would prevail.
“Republicans have spent the better part of the last year trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and the Affordable Care Act remains in place and is more popular than it has ever been,” she said.
Johnson, who grew up in North Cape May, will be returning to her home state after several roles in Washington, D.C.
Prior to serving on the White House Domestic Policy Council under Obama, Johnson worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the George Washington University Center for Health Policy Research, among others. She began her career as a legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. Bill Hughes (D-N.J.).
Norbut Beyer, who has worked as a senior director at the national child advocacy group Casey Family Programs for the past six years, first joined what was then called the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services during a turbulent time in 2003 as it was embroiled in allegations of dysfunction and neglect.
“When many of my colleagues were questioning my judgment of joining a struggling organization during a time of volatility, I saw it as a great opportunity,” Norbut Beyer said.
The Department of Children and Families was created in 2006 after the settlement of a class action lawsuit and has been overseen by a federal monitor for more than a decade.
Norbut Beyer said she is awaiting the latest report from the monitor on the state of the agency’s exit plan from federal oversight, which is expected to be released next week.
Johnson and Norbut Beyer are the ninth and 10th Cabinet nominations Murphy has announced since his election.
His has also nomianted Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver as Department of Community Affairs commissioner; Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio as treasurer; Assemblywoman Marlene Caride as the Department of Banking and Insurance commissioner; former Passaic County freeholder Tahesha Way as secretary of state; Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal as attorney general; and former Turnpike Authority Executive Director Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti for the Department of Transportation, Catherine McCabe as Department of Environmental Protection commissioner and Jared Maples as the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
All nominations, with the exception of Oliver’s, are subject to confirmation by the state Senate.