Without a budget from the Democrat controlled State Legislature, Governor Chris Christie ordered non-essential government operations to cease.
In an Executive Order issued at the midnight June 30 deadline for a State Budget, Christie declared a state of emergency and ordered that State Police, state correctional facilities, key child welfare services, state hospitals and treatment facilities, NJ TRANSIT, and operations linked to the health, safety, and welfare of the public, including certain environmental and health monitoring will continue to operate.
Gambling is essential to the operation of New Jersey. The state lottery will not be affected by the closure. Atlantic City Casinos and racetracks will remain open with state oversight.
“This order is necessary to maintain the protection, safety and well-being of the people of New Jersey while I attempt to convince the Legislature to send me a fiscally responsible budget that I can sign and re-open New Jersey’s government, ” said Governor Christie. “This was completely avoidable. But Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto needlessly stalled the budget process, forcing the closure of New Jersey government and inconveniencing everyone living in and visiting our state.”
Prieto put forth a budget to the State Assembly multiple times on Thursday and Friday. Each time the budget failed to get the required 41 votes (50% plus 1) required for passage. The last vote was Yes -26, No-25 and 24 abstained.
The issue causing the deadlock is legislation proposed by Christie that would give the State greater oversight over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, New Jersey’s largest nonprofit health insurer, which would give the government the power to take surplus reserves from the insurer. Christie wants to take $300 million from Horizon to fund opioid addiction recovery services. Prieto has refused to put the Horizon bill up for a vote in the Assembly. Most of the 24 Assembly members refusing to vote on the budget are Democrats aligned with Senate President Steve Sweeney who want the Horizon bill put up for a vote. Sweeney and Christie have agreed to a budget that includes 73 spending items of over $350 million so long as Christie gets his Horizon bill.
During a press conference on Friday afternoon, Christie indicated that he would line item veto much of Sweeney’s wishlist if he was presented with a budget passed by both chambers and not the Horizon bill. Christie said such an occurrence would result in “a more Republican budget.”
The legislature is scheduled to reconvene to continue negotiations at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. In the meantime, State parks and beaches and Motor Vehicle Commission offices are closed on Saturday.
The Governor’s Office provided the following list of links to many major state agencies and a brief description of services impacted by the budget impasse:
Department of Environmental Protection: All state parks, recreation areas, forests, and historic sites, including Island Beach State Park and Liberty State Park, will be closed; all public events within state parks and historic sites will be cancelled. The following will also be closed: 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 (Wildlife Management Areas and on-line services will not be impacted); NJ Geologic Survey; and Rebuild by Design projects.
Department of Transportation: Construction will continue, as will emergency repairs and some roadside safety services. The rest areas on I-295 in Deepwater, Salem County and on I-80 in Knowlton, Warren County, will be closed.
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission: All MVC agencies and inspection stations will be closed. Online services will still be available.
Department of Law & Public Safety: Juvenile Justice Commission operations, State Medical Examiner Offices, and other public safety operations will continue, but some administrative offices will be closed.
Department of Health: The public will not be able to obtain copies of birth and marriage certificates, or copies of adoptees’ original birth certificates. No new certifications or renewals will be issued for EMTs, paramedics or Certified Nursing Assistants.
New Jersey Department of Labor: Unemployment Insurance and disability determination services will remain operational. Temporary Disability Insurance claims, Wage and Hour claims, and Family Leave Insurance claims may be filed, but they will not be processed. One Stop Career Centers (state not county services) will be closed; Workers Compensation Courts will be closed. Division of Vocational and Rehabilitation Services will be closed.
Department of Children and Families: Child abuse hotlines, protection services and response teams will continue to operate. Schools for children with special needs will remain open.
Department of Military and Veterans Affairs: Veteran’s Haven North and South will remain in operation and National Guard will remain on call.
Department of Banking and Insurance: All offices will be closed except the IURO (health insurance internal appeals program).
Department of Community Affairs: Inspections related to construction codes, fire safety, fairs and fireworks displays will continue, however some public services will not be available.
Department of Corrections: Prisons and halfway houses will remain operational, although some inmate services will be impacted.
Department of Education: Katzenbach School will remain open. Phone help desks, customer service, and all other related staff-based assistance functions will be unavailable and all core public functions will be closed.
Economic Development Authority: EDA will not process any payments to businesses from any program (such as the Business Employment Incentive Program) which funding source needs to be authorized by the FY 2018 Appropriations Act.
Department of State: The travel and tourism welcome centers will be closed.
Department of the Treasury: July 1 pension checks have been processed and mailed. Taxation call centers and walk-in facilities will be closed. The Division of Risk Management will be closed, however the scheduling of medical appointments, treatments and services for injured workers will remain ongoing. The Division of Pensions and Benefits will be closed, although it will continue payment of health provider claims and life claims, and continue to process changes to family status for health benefits.