NJ government shuts down over budget gridlock

A view of the New Jersey State House the area's capitol building
A view of the New Jersey State House the area's capitol building. Marielle Segarra
Author

03 July, 2017

Christie, a Republican, shut down the state government at midnight Saturday in a feud with the Democrat-led Legislature over his wish to overhaul the state's largest health insurer.

Some tourist hotspots such as Island Beach State Park and Liberty State Park will be closed this holiday weekend and will remain closed through the Fourth of July unless lawmakers can reach an agreement.

During the shutdown, essential services including health and safety operations as well as New Jersey Transit will continue to operate.

Christie has cast Horizon, which opposes the measure and has parked a mobile video billboard displaying anti-Christie videos near his office this week, as a giant, greedy company that is abandoning the charitable mission the state had in mind when the state designated it as a health services corporation.

Prieto held a vote Friday on the budget that remained deadlocked with only 26 yes votes out of 41 needed to prevail.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield does business in New Jersey. "If they send me a budget without lottery and without Horizon, I will still sign a budget".

But Prieto says he's concerned about tweaking the state's biggest insurer, which is a nonprofit that has four board members appointed by the governor, at a time when congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump are contemplating overhauling the Affordable Care Act.

Christie told reporters Saturday that the state will do what it must to function, either via federal funding or by running up a tab.

Christie contends that Horizon is compelled to "give back" as part of its non-profit status and an obligation to embrace charitable needs.

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However, despite the complicated origins of the shutdown, only one person will likely bear the brunt of the blame: Christie, who already has a historically low approval ratings.

The Louisiana Legislature also grappled with its state budget, approving it June 16, eight days after missing the regular session deadline.

A woman named Amethyst posted a photo of a campsite at Wharton State Forest, blaming both Prieto and Christie and said: '@GovChristie @VincentPrieto Thanks for ruining our vacation!'

"They send me a budget with Horizon and with the Lottery then these 73 spending items will stay", Christie said at a press conference on Friday.

The timing couldn't have been much worse for folks hoping to visit state parks and beaches on the holiday weekend.

Liberty State Park was closed, forcing the suspension of ticket sales and ferry service from the site to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. "Horizon needs to come to the table, as they have over the last number of years to come up with creative and innovative programs like that, to help us find a solution".

Prieto said Friday he will leave the voting session open but declined to say how late.

Craig Aplaugh and his wife Angela Morgan Alpaugh, both 42, of Athens, N.Y., also have a summer house on LBI and had stopped by the lighthouse on the chance it might be open despite the shutdown.

State police, who guard the property, are not affected by the shutdown.


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