Gov. James Florio signed a welfare reform package Tuesday that includes a provision to deny additional benefits to women who have children while on welfare.

The move makes New Jersey the first state to deny benefits to children born to welfare recipients. Under current law, a woman who has a child while on welfare receives an additional $64 a month.

Women who marry while on welfare can continue to receive benefits until their total family income reaches a certain level.

Several religious groups, including the New Jersey Catholic Conference, asked the governor to veto the bill.

Roman Catholic officials called the measure an incentive for abortion. The Rev. Charles Rawlings of the New Jersey Council of Churches, said it "substitutes punitive measures for social programs."

The welfare reform package also requires recipients to enroll in education or job-training programs or seek employment.

Former Assembly majority leader Wayne Bryant, who sponsored the Family Development Act, said that welfare has contributed to family breakdown. His aim in sponsoring the act was to provide an incentive for welfare recipients to get jobs.

"This legislation is guided by compassion and crafted in common sense," Florio said.

Florio signed the bill at a day care center here.

The state public advocate has already said it may challenge the provision.

The changes in the welfare law must be approved by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the state must draw up appropriate regulations. The changes are scheduled to take effect July 1.

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