New Jersey Government Shuts Down After Legislators Fail To Meet Budget Deadline

UPDATED 07/01/17 12:10 a.m.

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey state government shut down at midnight Friday night, after lawmakers failed to pass a nearly $35 billion budget and avert a state government shutdown.

Gov. Chris Christie called for a special session of the New Jersey State Legislature on Saturday at 11 a.m., and blamed Democratic State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto for failing to reach a deal.

“He has not asked, either formally or informally, for the opportunity to address that session. The Governor has no idea why the Speaker is denying him the right to give a speech that he hasn’t even asked to give,” the statement said. “The Governor has called the session not to give speeches but to try to work to convince the Speaker to reopen the government that the Speaker has closed tonight. The Governor will be here early tomorrow to continue to work for the people of New Jersey.”

Christie also declared a state of emergency and maintained that essential state government services would remain in place. State police, correctional facilities, key child welfare facilities, state hospitals and treatment facilities, NJ TRANSIT, and operations linked to health, safety and welfare will be maintained.

The shutdown also will not affect the state Lottery, casinos and racetracks.

But Island Beach State Park announced late Friday night that it would be closed Saturday due to the New Jersey government shutting down.

Liberty State Park — which had been gearing up for a big Fourth of July celebration — will also be closed. So will all other state parks, recreation areas, forest, and historic sites.

Permitting offices for Air, Historic Preservation, Land Use, Site Remediation, Solid Waste, and Water Supply; Green Acres and Blue Acres offices; Office of Dispute Resolution; Office of Permit Coordination; most of the Division of Fish & Wildlife; NJ Geologic Survey; and Rebuild by Design projects will also be closed

New Jersey motor vehicle agencies and inspection stations will also be closed. The public will not be able to get copies of birth and marriage certificates, and no new certifications or renewals will be issued for EMTs, paramedics or Certified Nursing Assistants.

Travel and tourism welcome centers will be closed, as will some treasury operations.

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, the crisis came as many New Jerseyans are all set to enjoy the holiday weekend – but were poised to find themselves unable to do so.

For Christian Gonzalez and his 9-year-old twins, there are plenty of reasons to make the hour-and-a-half drive to Island Beach State Park several times a month.

“I like going in the water,” Gonzalez’s daughter told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

“Me too, I like hanging out with my sister in the water,” Gonzalez’s son said.

“The family atmosphere; the fact that it’s a state park, away from the boardwalk,” said Gonzalez, of West Hampton, New Jersey.

But now, Island Beach State Park will be closed – and Christie said earlier he could not do anything about it.

“You want me to wave a magic wand to get a budget?” Gov. Chris Christie said. “I can’t get a budget to my desk. Only the senate and assembly can get the budget to my desk.”

Christie said public workers should not expect any back pay.

The stalemate pitted Christie and Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney against Prieto.

“I don’t want to see Speaker Prieto keeping people out of Liberty State Park this weekend for Fourth of July weekend,” Christie said. “I don’t want to see Speaker Prieto stopping people from going to Island Beach State Park this weekend, during Fourth of July weekend. But this is purely up to him now.”

Prieto refuses to post a bill backed by Christie and Sweeney that would overhaul Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer.

“The only obstruction left is the speaker, who for some reason has decided that the interests of a multibillion-dollar insurance company are more important to protect than people’s ability to have their government remain open and operational,” Christie said.

Prieto told reporters in Trenton he will not be “extorted” by Christie and break away Assembly Democrats into making what he calls a “bad budget deal,” CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.

The main sticking point has been Christie’s plan to use reserve funds from the insurer for drug-addiction treatment services, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported. There is bipartisan support in the Senate, but Prieto is opposed. He believes it creates a dangerous precedent.

Prieto said he would stake his speakership on preventing a vote on the bill.

“I tell you, for good conscience and doing the right thing, the answer would be yes,” Prieto said.

He called the bill on Horizon a tax.

“That is cement in the sand for me,” Prieto said. “It will be after we pass a budget that we will look at a bill like that, that could potentially affect 3.8 million residents of the state of New Jersey.”

He got only 24 votes out of a 52-member Democratic caucus when he posted the budget for a vote Thursday. Many Democrats failed to register a vote, and Prieto canceled the session.

Christie, who is facing his final budget as governor and has said Prieto would shoulder the blame for any potential shutdown, told his Cabinet to prepare for closing down.

Prieto said blame for a shutdown lies with the Assembly lawmakers who failed to support a budget that came through a Democrat-controlled committee and includes about $350 million in Democratic spending priorities.

“Whoever doesn’t vote for this budget will be voting for a government shutdown,” Prieto said.

Sweeney on Thursday pushed through passage of the Senate Horizon bill and called on the Assembly to approve it.

Horizon has strongly fought back against the Christie proposal with an onslaught of lobbying. The nonprofit says using the surplus would lead to higher rates for its members.

Meanwhile, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop had hoped residents would be able to celebrate on July Fourth in Liberty State Park. He’s not taking sides in the budget battle but wants a swift resolution to avoid a shutdown.

“We have a lot of local entertainment, so there’s been probably about six to eight months that went into planning this,” he said. “We’ve raised a lot of dollars from the private sector in order to move this forward, so it would be a shame if it didn’t happen.”

In the worst-case scenario, the concert and fireworks would be relocated, possibly to Exchange Place.

New Jersey residents were frustrated about the possibility of a shutdown, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.

“It’s ridiculous,” said P.J. Villegas, of Jersey City. “I mean, I can’t believe we pay so much taxes, especially in New Jersey, and no budget for this. It’s insane.”

“It’s horrible,” said Barbara-Lisa Johnson of Wanaque. “The timing in just terrible.”

“Politicians, wish they could get their act together,” said Daniel Johnson of Wanaque.

“It would send the wrong message to the public if the budget wasn’t passed,” said Gonzalez.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More From CBS New York

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Get Our Morning Briefs
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index

Watch & Listen LIVE