Bud­get im­passe ends in N.J.

Ready to sign, Christie says; beaches to open for Fourth

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

TREN­TON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie said late Mon­day he’ll sign a bud­get deal and end a gov­ern­ment shut­down that had closed state parks and beaches to the pub­lic.

The Repub­li­can gover­nor said he was sad­dened the bud­get deal had come three days late but he’d sign it right away.

He said he had or­dered all closed state parks to re­open for the Fourth of July. And he said state gov­ern­ment will open on Wed­nes­day and that state work­ers will get a paid hol­i­day to­day at his re­quest.

The bud­get deal was an­nounced late Mon­day by New Jersey Se­nate Pres­i­dent Steve Sweeney and Assem­bly Speaker Vin­cent Pri­eto, both Democrats. The two un­veiled the bud­get at a joint news con­fer­ence on Mon­day at the state­house.

The deal calls for a $34.7 bil­lion bud­get that in­cludes more than $300 mil­lion in Demo­cratic spend­ing pri­or­i­ties and is part of an agree­ment to over­haul Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health in­surer. The new law calls for an­nual au­dits of the non­profit’s re­serve level, sets a range for its re­serves and re­quires its ex­cess funds to be spent on pol­i­cy­hold­ers.

The bud­get stale­mate had cen­tered on Christie’s de­sire for leg­is­la­tion that in­cluded the changes at Horizon.

Pri­eto and Sweeney were seen ear­lier Mon­day with Horizon Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Bob Marino to ne­go­ti­ate the deal.

“We got some good con­cepts,” Pri­eto said at the time.

Of­fi­cials work­ing for Christie had at­tempted to make Pri­eto the face of the shut­down, plac­ing signs on closed parks with Pri­eto’s pic­ture and the words “This fa­cil­ity is closed be­cause of this man.” Christie’s of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count on Sun­day linked to a YouTube video that showed Christie blam­ing the shut­down on Pri­eto, with the cap­tion, “I’m not the per­son who has drawn a line [in] the sand here.”

That choice of words was ques­tioned Mon­day af­ter Christie spent time with his fam­ily on a beach to which he had blocked pub­lic ac­cess.

Christie de­fended his visit to the shore, say­ing he had an­nounced for weeks his plans to va­ca­tion at the state-owned gover­nor’s beach house with his fam­ily and that the me­dia had sim­ply “caught a politi­cian keep­ing his word.”

“That’s the way it goes,” Christie said Satur­day about his fam­ily’s use of the beach house. “Run for gover­nor, and you can have the res­i­dence.”

Christie’s pic­ture was snapped from a plane Sun­day by NJ.com at Is­land Beach State Park, where he and his fam­ily had the sun and sand to them­selves. The gover­nor later flew back to Tren­ton to try to re­solve the bud­get stale­mate.

“I didn’t get any sun to­day,” Christie told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence Sun­day in Tren­ton.

When he learned of the pho­tos, Christie’s spokesman told NJ.com that the gover­nor was telling the truth.

“He did not get any sun,” Brian Mur­ray said. “He had a base­ball hat on.”

Af­ter learn­ing he was pho­tographed dur­ing his 45 min­utes on the beach, Christie sar­cas­ti­cally called it a “great bit of jour­nal­ism.”

But the pho­tos drew crit­i­cism even from mem­bers of his own party.

“It’s be­yond words,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is run­ning to re­place the term-lim­ited gover­nor. “If I were gover­nor, I sure wouldn’t be sit­ting on the beach if tax­pay­ers didn’t have ac­cess to state beaches.”

Hetty Rosen­stein, the New Jersey direc­tor of the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­ica, the largest union of state gov­ern­ment work­ers, said roughly 35,000 work­ers have been “locked out” since the shut­down be­gan.

While most of the gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees af­fected by the fur­loughs were only off on Mon­day, many parks, mo­tor ve­hi­cle com­mis­sion staff mem­bers and oth­ers who work week­ends have been off the job since early Satur­day.

Rosen­stein said it’s un­clear whether fur­loughed work­ers will get back pay in ad­di­tion to the paid hol­i­day but “we cer­tainly feel we’re en­ti­tled to that.”

Thomas Walker of Hamil­ton Town­ship had planned to do some re­search at the state li­brary in Tren­ton on Mon­day but was in­stead greeted by signs on the door stat­ing it was closed.

“It’s not a big deal that I can’t do what I wanted to, but I hope these folks re­al­ize how much folks are in­con­ve­nienced by this mess,” he said.

Busi­ness continued as usual for the state’s casi­nos, though Assem­bly­man Vince Mazzeo, an At­lantic City-area Demo­crat, in­tro­duced a bill Mon­day that he said would en­sure the state’s casi­nos could stay open through­out a state gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Prisons, state po­lice, state hos­pi­tals and New Jersey’s bus and com­muter rail sys­tem were also un­af­fected. The vast ma­jor­ity of beaches re­mained open as well, since most are con­trolled not by the state but by towns up and down New Jersey’s 130 miles of coast­line.

“Come and en­joy them,” the gover­nor tweeted Mon­day morn­ing, “but use sun­screen and hy­drate.”

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Michael Catal­ini, Bruce Ship­kowski and Wayne Parry of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Amy B. Wang of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Nick Corasaniti of The New York Times.


New Jersey Demo­cratic Assem­bly Speaker Vin­cent Pri­eto (cen­ter) is ac­com­pa­nied by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey Chair­man and CEO Bob Marino (right) at the State­house on Mon­day, in Tren­ton, N.J.

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