New Jersey Government Shutdown Drags Into 3rd Day

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-West Deptford, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

While Gov. Chris Christie was busy catching heat Monday for his family time on a beach to which he had blocked public access, a stalemate over the state’s $34.7 billion budget between the Republican and the Democrat-controlled Legislature stretched into a third day without a resolution in sight.

Spokesman Brian Murray said the governor was back in Trenton on Monday, a day after he was photographed by NJ.com at a closed state park lounging in a beach chair in sandals, shorts and a T-shirt.

State parks are shut down along with other nonessential state services, including state courts and the motor vehicle offices where people go to get driver’s licenses. Tens of thousands of state workers are furloughed until Christie signs off on a state budget.

Democratic Senate President 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 exchange for his support of more than $300 million worth of Democratic spending priorities.

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

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

Prieto says it’s not worth tweaking the insurer as congressional Republicans contemplate 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 shy of the majority needed to pass.

Christie argues that the company can be subject to legislation because it was established by statute 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.