New Jersey government shutdown extends into 3rd day

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TRENTON, NJ – While Gov. Chris Christie was busy catching the heat on Monday for his family time at a beach he had blocked off public access to, a standoff over the state budget between the Republican and the Democratic-controlled legislature dragged into a third day with no resolution in sight.

Spokesman Brian Murray said the governor returned to Trenton on Monday, a day after he was photographed by NJ.com in a closed state park lying on a beach chair in sandals, shorts and a t-shirt .

State parks are closed along with other non-essential public services, including state courts and motor vehicle offices where people go to get driver’s licenses. Tens of thousands of state employees are laid off until Christie signs the state budget.

Here’s a look at the $34.7 billion budget standoff:

HORIZON MEETING

Democratic Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney called a meeting Monday with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is at the center of the shutdown. Christie wants legislation passed to overhaul the nonprofit insurer in return for backing more than $300 million in Democratic spending priorities.

Sweeney says it’s worth passing the Horizon Act to get the spending priorities, including $150 million in revamped education spending he fought for.

But he said there wasn’t enough time on Monday to end the shutdown. He said that even if a compromise was reached after a meeting with Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Horizon, it would still have to go through a committee for a vote.

Prieto says it’s not worth changing the insurer as congressional Republicans consider their own health care overhaul. He also says the changes could lead to premium increases.

The Assembly remained open but deadlocked on a budget vote, 14 votes short of the majority needed to pass.

Christie argues that the company may be subject to legislation because it was created by law and four of its board members are appointed by the governor.

The company opposes the changes and disagrees with Christie’s reading of the law.

CASINOS AT RISK?

New Jersey officials are looking for ways to ensure Atlantic City casinos can stay open if the state government shutdown extends past Friday.

A 2008 law passed after the last government shutdown in the state allowed casinos to stay open for up to seven days after a government shutdown.

But lawmakers and regulators are looking for ways to prevent casinos from having to close if the standoff continues beyond Friday, as they regain momentum after a disastrous three-year period that saw the closure of five of the 12 casinos.

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, a Democrat from the Atlantic City area, introduced a bill on Friday that would allow casinos to remain open during the state government shutdown.

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