New Jersey budget impasse leads to closure of beach and other parks

New Jersey budget impasse leads to closure of beach and other parks

Chris Christie and the Democratic-led Legislature returned to the Statehouse on Saturday to try to resolve the shutdown, the state's first since 2006 and the first under Christie.

New Jerseyites were feeling the impact as a state government shutdown took effect Saturday, shuttering parks and other public sites and disrupting ferry service to Liberty and Ellis islands.

The Senate voted Thursday to approve the lottery dedication and Horizon bill, but Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has remained adamant that he would not post any Horizon legislation for a vote in his chamber.

The shutdown - only the second in the state's history - does not affect essential services, including the New Jersey State Police and psychiatric hospitals.

Christie ordered nonessential services, including state parks and the motor vehicle commission to close beginning Saturday. A number of other state services, including obtaining birth and marriage certificates, will halt.

Christie has called for a special legislative session on Saturday, but it's not at all clear the impasse will be solved anytime soon.

The shutdown of the state's government is complicated and based on the state government's failure to pass a budget and a fight over health care overhaul to Horizon, the state's largest healthcare provider, which was proposed by Christie.

In the Assembly, the budget impasse stems from the fact that some members of Prieto's own caucus - mostly Democrats representing districts in South Jersey - want to vote on the Horizon deal and have abstained from voting on the budget until that happens.

"This is further confirmation that the Governor's proposal amounts to a state takeover of Horizon that would amount to a government takeover that puts politicians in charge of the insurance that protects the health of 3.8 million New Jerseyans", said Kevin McArdle, Horizon spokesman.

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Prieto has refused to consider the Horizon proposal in budget negotiations.

The shutdown was the first in New Jersey in more than a decade, and it came as many in the state were heading to the Jersey Shore and state parks to celebrate Independence Day.

Christie, a Republican, has promised to use his line-item veto to eliminate other bills in the budget unless the Horizon bill is passed, nj.com reported.

Christie is demanding that lawmakers pass Senate-approved legislation to make over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"Friends and family were planning on going into the park, so obviously, it's affected them", Nasso said.

Prieto issued a statement saying discussions about changing Horizon were not part of the budget process and that Christie was trying to "extort" Horizon's ratepayers.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said the if the shutdown continues, the city's July 4 celebration will move to Exchange Place from Liberty State Park.

Hopefully, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Prieto can still get together and end this crisis, he added. "I have my boat here and I can't get my boat, no good", he added.

Lawmakers in both houses were expected to return to Trenton on Saturday morning.

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