New Jersey Lawmakers Announce Deal Has Been Reached For State’s Budget

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Lawmakers in New Jersey announced that they’ve agreed on a budget deal, effectively ending the Garden State’s three-day government shutdown and bringing all nonessential state-run services back to life.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced the resolution in a press conference Monday night, adding that they expect the legislature to formally pass the bill at some point soon.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he’s saddened the budget deal has come three days late but he’ll sign it right away, formally ending the state’s government shutdown.

The Republican governor said late Monday he has ordered all closed state parks to reopen for the Fourth of July.

Christie says state government will open on July 5, after the holiday. He says state workers will get a paid holiday tomorrow at his request.

Prieto said he drafted the bill Monday to address the state’s largest health insurer and satisfy his fellow Democrats and Republican Gov. Chris Christie in an effort to resolve the budget stalemate that has mired the state in a three-day government shutdown.

Prieto said Monday afternoon he couldn’t provide specific details just yet, but smiled and crossed his fingers when he was asked if a deal will be reached.

State parks and beaches had been closed since Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop Governor Christie from enjoying his vacation at one of those closed beaches.

Christie has been criticized after he was photographed on Sunday sunning himself on a New Jersey beach that he had closed to the public over the Fourth of July weekend because of a government shutdown.

With a long Fourth of July weekend and beautiful weather, Michael Columbo was expecting big business at his surf shop in Seaside Park.

Instead, he says the government shutdown caused by the budget stalemate is killing customer flow.

“They hurt us very badly and now we’re going to have to pay winter bills but we’re going to be missing a very large chunk of revenue,” he tells CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.

The holiday weekend makes up 25 percent of Columbo’s annual income, and normally is a huge money maker for all businesses along Central Avenue, where vacationers drive through to get to Island Beach State Park — the state run beach forced to shut down until legislators agree on a budget.

It’s the same beach where the Republican governor and his family were spotted on Sunday sunning themselves right outside his state-owned summer home — while others were shut out.

“We elect officials to do this work and this is something you shouldn’t be taking for granted,” local business owner Domenick Solazzo said.

Christie’s press secretary says the governor spent 45 minutes at the now-shuttered beach before heading back to work.

“You have a photo of a politician with his family, with his family, my God, on a beach,” spokesman Brian Murray said. “It is the governor’s residence, and it is a segment of beach that is closed 365 days of the year to the public anyway.”

“That’s messed up,” said resident Steve White. “Everyone else can’t go and he can just do whatever he wants.”

Online, users made fun of Christie’s weight. Others likened the beach closing to the 2013 scheme by Christie allies to close lanes and cause huge traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge. Some said Christie was trying to outdo President Donald Trump in low approval ratings.

Christie defended his use of the beach, saying that he had previously announced his plans to vacation at the state-owned governor’s beach house and that the media had simply “caught a politician keeping his word.”

“I didn’t get any sun today,” Christie told reporters at a news conference later in the day in Trenton. Then, when told of the photos, his spokesman told NJ.com that what the governor said was true because Christie was wearing a baseball hat.

Christie’s lieutenant governor, who is running in November to succeed him, said Christie’s beach time was “beyond words” and “tone deaf.”

“If I were governor, I sure wouldn’t be sitting on the beach if taxpayers didn’t have access to state beaches,” said Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

Guadagno spent the day visiting with small business owners, and says she’s also been reaching out to state legislators to get the budget done.

“We need to let people know that the legislature needs to take action because it’s hurting real people in New Jersey,” she said.

Democrat Phil Murphy, also running to take over Christie’s job, did not make himself available to speak with CBS2 on the state’s budget stalemate.

Christie said over the weekend he would sign any budget lawmakers sent to him and blamed the shutdown of nonessential services, including motor vehicle offices, on Speaker Prieto.

The governor previously said he would consider the Democratic budget along with legislation to overhaul the state’s biggest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Or, without the Horizon legislation he has called for, he would line item veto about $350 million of the Democratic priorities.

Sweeney, who was allied with Christie, called for a meeting with lawmakers and Horizon’s CEO to try to hash out a way forward. Horizon said CEO Bob Marino would attend. Horizon opposes Christie and Sweeney’s proposal.

“Egos have to go out the door now,” Sweeney said. “No absolutes, no lines in the sand. We have to have conversations and we have to be willing to compromise.”

Democrats were bitterly divided in the stalemate, with Prieto opposed to the plan and Sweeney in favor.

Sweeney called a meeting Monday with Horizon and says it’s worth passing the Horizon legislation to get the spending priorities, including $150 million in revamped education spending that he fought for. But he said that the shutdown won’t be over immediately, if a compromise is reached, because the bill would still have to go through committee for a vote.

Monday afternoon, after meeting with Horizon and Sweeney, Prieto was optimistic about a resolution.

“We’re making progress, I’ve instructed my staff to start drafting a bill,” he said.

Christie had ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services on Friday after he and lawmakers failed to agree on terms, and demanded lawmakers pass Senate-approved legislation to make over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, but on Sunday he said he’d reopen the government under either scenario.

NJ TRANSIT, state prisons, the state police, state hospitals and treatment centers as well as casinos, race tracks and the lottery all remained open during the three-day shutdown.

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

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