The New Jersey state government was forced to shut down at midnight on Friday, as the State Legislature remained locked in a standoff with Gov. Chris Christie that left them unable to agree on a budget plan.
The most immediate effect of the shutdown will be on those headed to state-run parks and beaches for the holiday weekend. Mr. Christie’s office indicated that those parks and beaches would be closed, although their municipal counterparts will remain open.
Mr. Christie declared a state of emergency and called for a special session of the Legislature for 11 a.m. Saturday. Essential government services were to continue operating.
Mr. Christie is demanding that the $34.7 billion budget negotiated by the Legislature, which is controlled by the Democrats, include a provision requiring that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield spend some of its reserve fund on public health initiatives — particularly his drug treatment initiative. Without that provision, Mr. Christie, a Republican, has threatened to veto any budget that lawmakers send him.
The Democrat-controlled State Senate had passed a form of the legislation Mr. Christie is demanding, but Vincent Prieto, a Democrat and the speaker of the State Assembly, said on Friday that he would “absolutely not” pass the Horizon bill.
Sheesh! Well that's a wonderful way to start your long holiday weekend!In a news conference late Friday afternoon, Mr. Christie, who has six months left in office, tried to shift the blame to the Legislature.
“I’m upset because this will inconvenience the people of New Jersey,” he said. “That’s the only reason I’m upset. Otherwise, legacy, all that other stuff, please. There will be a long list of things pro and con on my legacy.”
The government shutdown is the first in New Jersey in more than a decade, and it came as many in the state were heading to the Jersey Shore and its many state parks to celebrate Independence Day. The state’s casinos and racetracks will remain open, however, because of a law passed after a shutdown in 2006.