New Jersey and Maine were forced to shutdown all non-essential public services on Saturday after their respective legislatures failed to pass budgets funding the state government for the next fiscal year.
In the wake of expiring public appropriations, both Republican governors, Chris Christie and Paul LePage, issued emergency orders to fund necessary programs and government functions, such as health and welfare benefits, hospitals, law enforcement and prisons.
Govs. Christie and LePage are insisting on certain provisions in their state budgets which Democrats are resistant to, thus causing an impasse. Specifically, Maine’s governor has refused to sign a compromise bill agreed to by state legislators which would have increased public education funding by $162 million over two years and raised the occupancy or lodging tax by 1.5 percent.
In New Jersey, Chris Christie is demanding the state’s largest health insurer, non-profit Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, relinquish independent control of their monetary reserves and be required to cover other services, such as drug addiction treatment. Without language in the state budget to do so, Christie is threatening to veto Democratic priorities, such as $150 million in education funds.
While the Horizon reforms have bi-partisan support in Trenton, Democratic State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, has blocked members from voting on the legislation despite its passage in the Senate.
“The Assembly is the only one trying to pass a budget to get government going again,” Prieto said Sunday. “I will not be bullied into doing something that’s not good for the state of New Jersey.”
As a result of the Garden State stalemate, 40 state parks have been closed over the July 4 weekend, including beaches, and up to 35,000 nonessential government employees will be furloughed.
New Jersey’s casinos will not close until Friday given no agreement between state lawmakers is reached. However, Atlantic City Democrat, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, has proposed legislation which would allow gambling facilities to remain open for business throughout the entirety of the shutdown.
Gov. Christie, whose current 15 percent approval rating among New Jerseyans is the lowest in state history, caused a public uproar Sunday after being photographed at the Island Beach State Park governor’s residence on the property of a temporarily closed public facility, which also includes nearly five square miles of wetlands and shoreline.
Later in the day at a news conference in Trenton, Christie acknowledged the widely-publicized aerial pictures, but was unapologetic about his use of the beach-front home.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
[CNN] [Reuters via CNBC] [NJ.com] [AP] [Politico] [Photo courtesy Julio Cortez/AP via The Tribune]