The New Jersey state government was forced to shut down at midnight on Friday as the state legislature got stuck in a stalemate with Gov. Chris Christie, preventing them from reaching an agreement on a budgetary level.
The most immediate effect of the closure will be on those heading to state-run parks and beaches for the vacation weekend. Mr Christie’s office has indicated that these parks and beaches will be closed, although their municipal counterparts will remain open.
Mr Christie declared a state of emergency and called a special session of the legislature at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Essential government services had to continue to function.
Mr Christie demands that the $ 34.7 billion budget negotiated by the legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, include a provision requiring Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to spend part of its reserve fund on health initiatives public – especially its drug treatment initiative. Without this provision, Mr Christie, a Republican, threatened to veto any budget lawmakers sent him.
The Democratic-controlled state Senate had passed a form of the legislation that Mr Christie is calling for, but Vincent Prieto, Democrat and speaker of the state assembly, said on Friday he would pass “absolutely not “the Horizon Bill.
At a press conference late Friday afternoon, Mr Christie, who has six months left in office, tried to blame the Legislature.
“I’m upset because this will upset the people of New Jersey,” he said. “That’s the only reason I’m upset. Otherwise, inheritance, all that other stuff, please. There will be a long list of pros and cons on my legacy. “
The government shutdown is the first in New Jersey in more than a decade, and it came as many residents of the state made their way to the Jersey Shore and its many state parks to celebrate the day. of independence. The state’s casinos and racetracks will, however, remain open due to a law passed after a closure in 2006.
While the state will continue to provide emergency services and other functions deemed essential, it was less clear throughout Friday how other agencies would operate during the shutdown. The governor’s office sent a letter Friday at midnight, specifying which agencies would be closed and to what extent government operations would continue.
In addition to the closure of state parks and beaches, all public events at parks and historic sites would be canceled. Some rest areas and travel and tourism centers would be closed, as well as many administrative offices in major state agencies, from the Motor Vehicle Commission to the Department of the Treasury.
During the day Friday, the state offered no orientation to anyone visiting the parks and beaches, and calls from reporters to relevant agencies were not returned. Many settling in for the holiday weekend remained anxious, angry and in limbo.
Just before midnight, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office announced that Island Beach State Park would be closed due to the closure on Saturday.
Earlier on Friday, Sue Deck said she, her husband and two children had come to the park in their campervan and planned to go fishing over the holiday weekend.
They were not happy with the possibility of having to cut their trip short, she said.
“We won’t be very happy, to put it mildly,” said Ms. Deck, 50, of Jackson, NJ, who added that going out is a weekend ritual for her family. “This is our place.”
His sentiment was echoed by other beach goers who flocked to the park to swim, sunbathe, fish and, in Wayne Morley’s case, photograph birds. Mr Morley, a 74-year-old retired teacher from West Creek, New Jersey, traveled three miles to spot a rare piping plover on Friday morning.
“It would be a huge blow to the state park system,” he said of a shutdown. “A real problem. “
Robert Hanley, 69, a retired dock builder, expressed his anger at state politicians as he let the air come out of the tires of his pickup truck to better get to his favorite fishing spot in through the soft sand.
“I have been coming here for 18 years. I love it; it’s the best place in New Jersey, ”he said. “If I can’t come here, maybe I should go down to the Governor’s mansion. I want to go downstairs and find Christie and find where he spends his weekend.