Hit the beaches! New Jersey budget deadlock broken

Posted at 10:31 PM, Jul 03, 2017

New Jersey beaches and parks that had been closed because of a government shutdown should be open to the public Tuesday for the Fourth of July, state legislative leaders said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced at a news conference that a budget compromise had been reached.

Gov. Chris Christie had shut down the Garden State government Friday night after the state Legislature failed to pass a budget by the July 1 deadline, furloughing an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 state workers and forcing the temporary closure of state parks, beaches, recreational areas, and historic sites for the July 4 holiday.

Those recreation areas should be open for business Tuesday, the Fourth of July, Sweeney and Prieto said.

"The most important thing is, we opened the state of New Jersey again. We put back to work all those workers that did not get to go to work today. We opened all those beaches, all those services," Prieto said.

Christie did not appear at the news conference with the legislative leaders but scheduled his own news conference for later Monday night. Sweeney and Prieto said Christie said he would approve the budget.

Christie came under fire Monday after local media sources released photos of the Christie family on a deserted beach outside the governor's residence on Island Beach State Park. Members of the public who couldn't use the beaches criticized Christie, and Christie's own Republican lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, questioned the governor's decision.

The Legislature went back into session Monday night in an attempt to break the deadlock.

According to, the conflict in the Legislature was about the finances of not-for-profit Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the state's largest health insurer.

The state Senate passed a bill that allows the state government to control how much Horizon keeps in its surplus fund before it must contribute to a public health fund. Christie said he could accept that bill.

But Prieto, a Democrat, had refused to allow the bill to come to a vote in the House, said.

On Monday night, Prieto said a cap would be placed on the reserves and anything in excess will go back to the subscribers.

"This is something I can put my name on it," Prieto said.

This is Christie's second and last term as governor. He leaves office in January.

Christie had signed a state of emergency permitting the operation of essential government services such as state police, correctional facilities, welfare services, state hospitals and treatment facilities. Also shielded from the shutdown were New Jersey Transit, the state lottery, casinos and racetracks.