This case presents another chapter in the legal evolution of the Optional County Charter Law (Charter Law) enacted in 1972. L. 1972, c. 154, as amended by L. 1974, c. 141, and L. 1975, c. 84 (codified at N.J.S.A. 40:41A-1 to 144 (Supp. 1977-1978)). Only two years ago this court was presented with the question of whether a county could, pursuant to the Charter Law, abolish the autonomous Hudson County Welfare Board which was mandated by N.J.S.A. 44:7-7, in favor of a proposed department consolidating various services, among them welfare. In Amer. Fed'n of State, Cty. & Mun. Employees v. Hudson Cty. Welf. Bd. , 141 N.J. Super. 25, 27, 35-36 (Ch. Div. 1976), I held that the Charter Law superseded N.J.S.A. 44:7-7 insofar as the latter required an autonomous county welfare board, and therefore the county had the power to consolidate the existing county welfare board with other county functions.
Defendant in this action, the County of Hudson (county), thereafter negotiated and executed a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council No. 52, Local 2306. This agreement contains the terms of employment of county welfare workers. However, it was never submitted to plaintiff New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Public Welfare (Division) for its approval. In particular, this agreement set forth salary ranges for the Hudson County welfare employees which were not in compliance with the commonly known Ruling 11, an employment compensation and classification regulation promulgated by the Division
pursuant to N.J.S.A. 44:7-6 and governing salary ranges of county welfare board employees.
The present conflict between the county and the Division arose out of differing interpretation of the applicability of Ruling 11 to counties which had abolished the county welfare board. Both parties agree that there exists no material issue of fact and each has moved for summary judgment. The issue presented is whether Ruling 11 remains binding upon the county after its adoption of the executive plan of government pursuant to the Charter Law and its abolition of the county welfare board.
The relevant history behind the promulgation of Ruling 11 has both federal and state legislative components. The Federal Government, through the Social Security Act of 1935, 42 U.S.C.A. § 301 et seq. (1974 and Supp. 1977), established a series of categorical assistance programs,*fn1 in order to provide funding for certain classes of needy individuals and families. See Ariz. State Dept. of Pub. Welf. v. Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welf. , 449 F.2d 456, 460 (9 Cir. 1971), cert. den. 405 U.S. 919, 92 S. Ct. 945, 30 L. Ed. 2d 789 (1972); X v. McCorkle , 333 F. Supp. 1109, 1113 (D.N.J. 1970) (three-judge court), aff'd as modified per curiam sub nom., Engelman v. Amos , 404 U.S. 23, 92 S. Ct. 181, 30 L. Ed. 2d 143 (1971). Aid to Families with Dependent
Children (AFDC), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 601-644 (1974 and Supp. 1977), is one such program,*fn2 see Rosado v. Wyman , 397 U.S. 397, 407-408, 90 S. Ct. 1207, 1215, 25 L. Ed. 2d 442, 453 (1970), having for its purpose the provision of financial aid to dependent, impoverished children.*fn3 Shea v. Vialpando , 416 U.S. 251, 253, 94 S. Ct. 1746, 1750, 40 L. Ed. 2d 120, 125 (1974); Boucher v. Minter , 349 F. Supp. 1240, 1244-1245 (D. Mass. 1972); Bradford v. Juras , 331 F. Supp. 167, 170 (D. Or. 1971) (three-judge court); State v. Clark , 58 N.J. 72, 85 (1971).
The AFDC program known well as "a scheme of cooperative federalism," King v. Smith, supra , 392 U.S. at 316, 88 S. Ct. at 2133, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 1125, is financed largely by the Federal Government on a matching fund basis while it is administered by the individual states. Shea v. Vialpando, supra , 416 U.S. at 253, 94 S. Ct. at 1750, 40 L. Ed. 2d at 125; State v. Clark, supra , 58 N.J. at 89; Marlin v. McCorkle , 117 N.J. Super. 465, 469 (App. Div. 1971). State participation in AFDC is optional. Redding v. Burlington ,
65 N.J. 439, 442 (1974); Hausman v. Institutions and Agencies Dep't , 64 N.J. 202, 206, cert. den. 417 U.S. 955, 94 S. Ct. 3083, 41 L. Ed. 2d 674 (1974). But once a state elects to do so, it must comply with AFDC legislation and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder. King v. Smith, supra , 392 U.S. at 317, 88 S. Ct. at 2133, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 1125; Cornelius v. Minter , 395 F. Supp. 616, 621-622 (D. Mass. 1974) ("state accepts federal money * * * with the realization that there are 'strings attached'"); Johnson v. Harder , 383 F. Supp. 174, 179 (D. Conn. 1974), aff'd per curiam , 512 F.2d 1188 (2 Cir.), cert. den. 423 U.S. 876, 96 S. Ct. 149, 46 L. Ed. 2d 109 (1975); Essex Cty. Welf. Bd. v. Institutions & Agencies Dep't , 139 N.J. Super. 191, 196 (App. Div. 1976). Withdrawal of federal funds may result from a failure subsequently to follow the applicable federal laws. Rosado v. Wyman, supra , 397 U.S. at 420, 90 S. Ct. at 1222, 25 L. Ed. 2d at 460; Cornelius v. Minter, supra , 395 F. Supp. at 621-622; Adens v. Sailer , 312 F. Supp. 923, 927 (E.D. Pa. 1970).
One of the main prerequisites to receipt of federal grants-in-aid is the formulation and submission of a state plan for implementing the AFDC program. Shea v. Vialpando, supra , 416 U.S. at 253, 94 S. Ct. at 1750, 40 L. Ed. 2d at 125; Ariz. State Dept. of Pub. Welf. v. Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welf., supra , 449 F.2d at 460; Redding v. Burlington Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 65 N.J. at 442; Buchanan v. Essex Cty. Welf. Bd. , 117 N.J. Super. 541, 545 (App. Div. 1971). "A 'state plan' consists of all the statutes and regulations which create and provide for the administration of public assistance." Communications Workers v. Union Cty. Welf. Bd. , 126 N.J. Super. 517, 524 (App. Div. 1974). This plan must also be consistent with the goals and mandates of the federal statutes and regulations. Shea v. Vialpando, supra , 416 U.S. at 253, 94 S. Ct. at 1750, 40 L. Ed. 2d at 125; Mothers & Childrens Rights Org., Inc. v. Stanton , 371 F. Supp. 298, 303 (D. Ind. 1973); Redding
v. Burlington Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 65 N.J. at 442. Of particular import are the requirements that (1) a single state agency administer or supervise the administration of the plan, 45 C.F.R. 205.100(a) (i); Essex Cty. Welf. Bd. v. Institutions & Agencies Dep't, supra , 139 N.J. Super. at 196; Communications Workers v. Union Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 126 N.J. Super. at 524; (2) the plan set up a merit system of personnel administration for state employees, 42 U.S.C.A. § 602(a) (5) (A); 45 C.F.R. 70.1 et seq.; accord, Norton v. Blayblock , 285 F. Supp. 659, 660, 663 (W.D. Ark. 1968), aff'd per curiam , 409 F.2d 772 (8 Cir. 1969); Communications Workers v. Union Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 126 N.J. Super. at 525, and (3) the plan be in effect and mandatory throughout the state, including all political subdivisions. Communications Workers v. Union Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 126 N.J. Super. at 524-525; Multnomah Cty. v. Luihn , 180 Or. 528, 533, 178 P. 2d 159, 162 (Sup. Ct. 1947) ("state-wide administrative plan is mandatory upon the counties and may not be varied by them").
A state may not implement the plan until it is approved by the Department of Health, Education & Welfare (HEW), Chambers v. Klein , 419 F. Supp. 569, 574-575 (D.N.J. 1976), aff'd mem. 564 F.2d 89 (3 Cir. 1977); State v. v. Clark, supra , 58 N.J. at 89; Buchanan v. Essex Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 117 N.J. Super. at 545, the governmental agency responsible for supervising and administering the Social Security Act. N.Y. State Dept. of Social Servs. v. Dublino , 413 U.S. 405, 420, 93 S. Ct. 2507, 2516, 37 L. Ed. 2d 688, 698 (1973). Actual receipt of federal funds is preconditioned upon state certification to HEW that all "the requirements of the state plan have been fulfilled in the administration of the welfare programs." Communications Workers v. Union Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 126 N.J. Super. at 524.
After the state plan is approved, it remains "subject to continuing scrutiny * * * to ensure its continuing conformity to the federally imposed requirements and its continuing freedom from the federally proscribed conditions, both on
the face of the plan and in its administration." Ariz. State Dept. of Pub. Welf. v. Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welf., supra , 449 F.2d at 461. If, at a conformity hearing, a state plan or the administration thereof is determined to be no longer in compliance with federal requirements, federal payments to the state are terminated until the defects are cured. Id. Where the plan or the state regulations under the plan have been invalidated due to nonconformance, the regulations have been set aside, see Buchanan v. Essex Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 117 N.J. Super. at 548, their enforcement has been enjoined, see X v. McCorkle, supra , 333 F. Supp. at 1109, or the federal funds have been discontinued. Ariz. State Dept. of Pub. Welf. v. Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welf., supra , 449 F.2d at 460.
Public assistance in New Jersey is administered through a variety of programs, including categorical assistance such as AFDC. New Jersey, like all other states, elected to participate in AFDC, L. 1959, c. 86; see Motyka v. McCorkle , 58 N.J. 165, 168 (1971); State v. Clark, supra , 58 N.J. at 89. Its state plan was adopted and approved by HEW in 1959. Redding v. Burlington Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 65 N.J. at 442; Motyka v. McCorkle, supra , 58 N.J. at 168.
Under this plan and pursuant to the federal mandate, New Jersey's AFDC program is administered by a single state agency, viz. , the Division. See Essex Cty. Welf. Bd. v. Institutions and Agencies Dept., supra , 139 N.J. Super. at 197; N.J.A.C. § 10:91-3.5(c). The Commissioner of the Department of Social Services (Department) is authorized by N.J.S.A. 44:10-3 to issue "all necessary rules and regulations and administrative orders * * * to secure for the State of New Jersey the maximum Federal financial participation." Id.; accord, Motyka v. McCorkle, supra , 58 N.J. at 169. Furthermore, the Commissioner is specifically directed to promulgate regulations "[t]o assure that the program shall be in effect in all counties of the State and be mandatory upon them." N.J.S.A. 44:10-3(a).
The statute governing AFDC in New Jersey, N.J.S.A. 44:10-1 et seq. , "is administered in accordance with and governed by the requirements, conditions and procedures similar to those established by [ N.J.S.A. 44:7-19]." Essex Cty. Welf. Bd. v. Hellams , 98 N.J. Super. 181, 184 (Cty. Ct. 1967) (quoting from N.J.S.A. 44:10-2). Accordingly, local administration of the AFDC program is delegated to the county welfare boards pursuant to " N.J.S.A. 44:7-12 as applied to the AFDC program through N.J.S.A. 44:10-2." Essex Cty. Welf. Bd. v. Institutions and Agencies Dept., supra , 139 N.J. Super. at 197; see Redding v. Burlington Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 65 N.J. at 442; Buchanan v. Essex Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 117 N.J. Super. at 543-544. County welfare boards are defined as "the boards established within the several counties for the purposes of administering welfare to the needy, whether set up pursuant to [ N.J.S.A. 44:7-1 et seq. ] or pursuant to any other laws of this state." N.J.S.A. 44:7-1; see Buchanan v. Essex Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 117 N.J. Super. at 543-544.
Administration of AFDC by the county welfare boards is subject to the supervision of the Department which has implemented the state act through administrative regulations pursuant to its authority under N.J.S.A. 44:10-3. Redding v. Burlington Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 65 N.J. at 442, 445. One such regulation is "Ruling 11, which constitutes the aggregation of provisions controlling the terms and conditions of employment of county welfare board employees." Essex Cty. Welf. Bd. v. Klein , 149 N.J. Super. 241, 245 (App. Div. 1977). The standard compensation plan set forth in Ruling 11 identifies the various classifications of employers in the state governmental agencies comparable to each position in the county welfare board and applies the same salary ranges to the county position as are applicable to their state counterparts. Id. at 245-246; Communications Workers v. Union Cty. Welf. Bd., supra , 126 N.J. Super. at 520-521. Both minimum and maximum salaries are set forth for each position. Id. at 521.
Ruling 11 was promulgated pursuant to N.J.S.A. 44:7-6, which was enacted "in 1936 shortly after the inception of the original Federal Old Age Assistance Program." Communications Workers v. Union Cty. Bd., supra , 126 N.J. ...