New Jersey on the Bring of Government Shut Down

A view of the New Jersey State House the area's capitol building

Gov. Chris Christie ordered a state government shutdown on Saturday after the clock struck midnight without a deal on a new state budget, forcing state parks, Motor Vehicle Commission locations, and some highway rest stops to close and tens of thousands of workers to be furloughed.

New Jersey, Maine and IL are all facing at least partial government shutdowns after their legislatures failed to pass budgets.

IL on Saturday entered an unprecedented third year with no full state budget, as lawmakers continued meeting in Springfield.

Christie has called for the legislature to reconvene at 2 p.m. Sunday in an attempt to break the deadlock, press secretary Brian Murray said.

"The speaker is playing games with that from what I can tell and not asking his members to be here today".

Christie said he would remove about $150 million in school funding and other items previously agreed with Democrats unless the Assembly passed the Horizon bill.

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

CT failed to pass a budget, but the state's governor stepped in with an emergency spending order. "Others don't. That's just the way it goes", Christie defiantly told reporters from Trenton on Saturday.

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.

Prieto said he is willing to pass the budget if the Horizon bill can be dealt with in summer sessions after the budget passes.

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

The Senate passed a form of the legislation Christie is demanding, but Vincent Prieto, the speaker of the Assembly, said Friday that he would "absolutely not" pass the Horizon bill.

Hanging in the balance is a list of 72 Democratic budget priorities, which Gov. Christie has said he will line item veto if the Legislature does not deliver him a budget that includes the Horizon oversight bill.

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

Horizon said in a statement that CEO Bob Marino would attend.

At the crux of the dispute is Christie's desire to take surplus funds from the state's largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and use them to combat opioid addiction in the state.

The shutdown is only the second in state history. "He objected to both its contents and the process that led to Friday's vote, which ended with the leaders of the House and Senate negotiating the final details". New Jersey's credit rating is now the second lowest in the United States, above only IL. It would allow the state insurance commissioner to set a range for Horizon's surplus, which would have to be spent on the public and policyholders if the limit is exceeded.

The problem will be a headache for visitors hoping to enjoy Jersey's 40 state parks, recreational areas and historic sites, but will of course be much more severe for residents.



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