If you’d planned to spend the long weekend slathered in baby oil down the shore, I’ve got some bad news. Thanks to government deadlock over the budget, all of New Jersey’s state-run parks and beaches will be closed to the public until the issue is straightened out, whenever that might be.
Governor Chris Christie announced the shutdown early Saturday after he failed to agree on a new budget with Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. Municipal parks are still open and New Jersey transit is still running, but all non-essential offices are closed.
According to NJ.com, the issue centers on Christie’s desire to control how much not-for-profit Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey may keep in a reserve fund before it’s required to use it for public health, namely, opioid addiction treatment programs.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, was prepared to accede to Christie’s demands, but Prieto was not, calling Christie’s tactics “total extortion.” The issue is being debated in a special session today, but that doesn’t mean it will be resolved immediately. The last time the New Jersey government shut down was in 2006, and it lasted for eight days. Christie doesn’t seem likely to back down, and has threatened to line-veto other items in the budget unless he gets his way.
The problem will be a headache for visitors hoping to enjoy Jersey’s 40 state parks, recreational areas and historic sites, but will of course be much more severe for residents. Come Monday, the courts will be closed, and tens of thousands of state employees will be furloughed.
Though some signs have popped up around the state blaming the mess on Prieto, it’s likely that the wildly unpopular Christie will ultimately take the fall. With six months left in office and an approval rating of just 15 percent, a government shutdown is just what Christie needed to secure his place as the most despised governor in New Jersey history.
NJ.com has a complete list of closures here.