Gov. Chris Christie ordered the shutdown of state government last night as the legislative stalemate over the budget extended past June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year.
All state parks were closed, and any public events scheduled for those parks are canceled. The Department of Environmental Protection will not process permits, and the Economic Development Authority will not issue payments that would need funding from the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. (Go here for a list of what’s affected and what’s not.)
All transportation construction will continue, however, as will Department of Transportation roadside safety services, but rest areas along I-295 will be closed.
Also continuing will be inspections related to construction codes, fire safety, fairs and fireworks displays.
The budget failed to get enough support for passage in the Assembly last night, garnering only 26 of the 41 “yes” votes needed for passage, after briefly reaching 27 yes votes. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto held the board open as the midnight deadline approached, but there was little change on the result.
The budget itself has broad support, but legislation that would allow for the state to take “excess” capital reserves from the health insurance company Horizon BCBSNJ is blocked in the Assembly (NJBIA opposes the bill). Christie has said he will use his line-item veto authority to cut spending from the budget unless the Legislature sends him the Horizon bill as well. Legislators who do not want to see their priorities canceled by the Governor are withholding their votes for the budget until there is a vote on the Horizon bill.
Earlier in the day, NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka urged lawmakers to put politics aside and pass the state budget.
“Our position on the Horizon legislation is unchanged; nevertheless, it is a separate issue,” Siekerka said. “The urgency of meeting the constitutional deadline for enacting a balanced budget and avoiding a government shutdown should be today’s objective.”
Christie said he would sign a budget if one were sent to him regardless of other issues. At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Christie said he was not “drawing any line in the sand.”
“If they sent me a budget tonight without Horizon, then, I’ll act in one particular way,” he said. “If they send me a budget with Horizon then I’ll act in a different way.”