Budget stalemate prompts state government shutdown

Posted: Updated:
TRENTON -

Day one of New Jersey's government shutdown ended without a vote taken on the state budget, and Gov. Chris Christie has summoned lawmakers back to work by 2 p.m. Sunday. 

In a rare move Gov. Christie took the podium Saturday within the Senate chambers to address the Legislature.

"Work with me to end this shutdown," he pleaded. 

The governor says he won't sign the budget unless it includes the Horizon Blue Cross Bill – one that mandates the insurer use some of its $2.4 billion in surplus to fund treatment for opioid abusers. 

"They're hoarding money in this reserve account so they can pay themselves bigger bonuses, bigger perks, invest more in the stock market," said Gov. Christie.   

In the Assembly chambers, the voting board was open for casting ballots, but the budget version up for a vote doesn't include the Horizon bill. Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto won't allow it, saying it needs proper vetting.

"The Horizon Bill can get done after the budget. Now, we need open government in the state of New Jersey," said Prieto. 

He says some legislators aren't voting because they're being bullied by Gov. Christie.

"Release those members you're holding hostage and we will get it to you in five minutes," said Prieto. 

The governor has threatened to line-item veto funding for 72 projects Democrats have pushed for if he doesn't get what he wants. One of those under fire is the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which relies on state money to stay open. 

"Without a doubt, if there's not full restoration of money in the budget, rape crises services will go away in the next 60 days," said Patricia Teffenhart. 

Gov. Christie issued a mandatory closure of all non-essential state offices after budget deadline passed, and all MVC locations were closed. All state parks, including Island Beach State Park and Liberty State Park are also closed during this holiday weekend because of the shutdown, and ferry service from Liberty State Park to Liberty and Ellis islands is suspended.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop says the planned Fourth of July fireworks show at Liberty State Park will be moved to Exchange Place on Tuesday if needed. The celebration will still include a concert, carnival and fireworks, Fulop says.

State prisons, the state police, casinos, the lottery and New Jersey Transit remain open. But state workers have been furloughed.

Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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