Both houses of the New Jersey Legislature passed a budget last night which Governor Chris Christie signed, ending the three day shutdown of non-essential government services.
New Jersey state parks and beaches will be open today, the 4th of July. Courts, MVC offices and all other state operations will return to their normal operating hours tomorrow.
At at 10pm press conference announcing a deal on legislation to change the State’s oversight of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said that would ask Christie to support their desire to pay state employees for their forced day off on July 3.
The new budget includes an $325 million increase in state spending on education and social programs that Sweeney pledge to close the government over if he didn’t get. Governor Christie said in a press release that the new budget contains $2 billion less in discretionary spending than the 2008 budget he inherited when he took office in 2009.
The Horizon reform bill, which Christie insisted upon if he was to approve Sweeney’s increased spending, requires that the health insurer refund excess reserves to policy holders and provides that the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker each appoint a member to the company’s board. This bill, which is based upon how Pennsylvania’s Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers are regulated, was negotiated between Democrat legislative leaders and Horizon’s management in an all day meeting yesterday.
Horizon had vigorously fought Christie’s February proposal that the insurer turn over $300 million of its reserves to the state for opioid addiction services. A version of the bill passed in the Senate last week would have expanded Horizon’s charity care obligations in New Jersey and given the state the right to take excess reserves. Prieto refused to let that bill be voted upon in the Assembly.
Prieto fought intense pressure from within his party and Christie’s campaign to blame him for the shutdown. The Assembly members, many of whom were plotting to oust him to break the budget impasse, give Prieto a standing ovation when the budget and the Horizon bill passed, according to published reports.
In his press conference, Christie claimed victory, stating that he got everything he wanted from the process. He defiantly defended his use of Island Beach State Park during the shutdown, claiming he does not care about optics and that he was fulfilling a commitment to his family.