New Jerseyans were feeling the impact as a state government shutdown took effect Saturday, shuttering parks and other public sites and disrupting ferry service to Liberty and Ellis islands.
Among those affected were a group of Cub Scouts forced to leave a state park campsite and people trying to obtain or renew documents from the state motor vehicle commission, among the agencies closed by the shutdown.
planned to return to work Saturday to try to resolve the shutdown, the state's first since 2006 and the first under Christie. It came about after leaders failed to reach an agreement on a new budget by Friday night's deadline.
Andrew Spears, a leader with Cub Scout Pack 124 in Tinton Falls, said his group was told to leave Cheesequake State Park on Saturday morning. His group of roughly 45 — including about 25 children — had planned to camp all weekend.
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"We knew this was probably coming, but it's still a shame we have to head out," Spears said.
Remaining open under the shutdown will be New Jersey Transit, state prisons, the state police, state hospitals and treatment centers as well as casinos, race tracks and the lottery.
Liberty State Park was closed, forcing the suspension of ticket sales and ferry service from the site to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the latter two sites remain open.
Christie and the lawmakers are in a stalemate over whether to include legislation affecting the state's largest health insurer into the state budget. He and Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney agree on legislation to make over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, including allowing the state insurance commissioner to determine a range for the company's surplus that if exceeded must be put to use benefiting the public and policyholders.
But Prieto opposes the plan, saying that the legislation could lead to rate hikes on the insurer's 3.8 million subscribers and that the legislation is separate from the budget.
Christie reiterated his stance during a news conference Saturday, calling the standoff "embarrassing and pointless." He also repeatedly referred to the government closure as "the speaker's shutdown." He later addressed a joint session of the Legislature, focusing mainly on the Horizon issue during a speech that lasted about 30 minutes.
"Government is closed over a transparency and accountability fight," he told the lawmakers. "Let's do it today and then go home."
Prieto remained steadfast Saturday in his opposition, reiterating that he won't consider the plan as part of the budget process but would consider it once a budget is signed.
Referring to the shutdown as "Gov. Christie's Hostage Crisis Day One," Prieto said he has made compromises that led to the budget now before the Legislature.
"I am also ready to consider reasonable alternatives that protect ratepayers, but others must come to the table ready to be equally reasonable," Prieto said. "Gov. Christie and the legislators who won't vote 'yes' on the budget are responsible for this unacceptable shutdown. I compromised. I put up a budget bill for a vote. Others now must now do their part and fulfill their responsibilities."
Prieto said a vote on the $34.7 billion budget that remains deadlocked 26-25, with 24 abstentions, will remain open until those 24 abstentions change their minds.
Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo was among those abstaining. He reasoned that if the governor did not get the Horizon bill, then nearly $150 million in school funding would be line-item vetoed out of the budget.
And indeed, Christie said Friday he would slash the Democratic spending priorities if he did not get the Horizon bill as part of a package deal on the budget.
"It seems like he's just being stubborn," Mazzeo said of Prieto. "With all due respect to the speaker, then there should be some type of negotiations."
But Prieto said it's lawmakers — fellow Democrats — like Mazzeo who are to blame for the shutdown. He said he is willing to discuss the Horizon legislation but after the budget is resolved.
Christie has balked at the proposal because he says lawmakers plan to leave town to campaign for re-election and he will be a lame duck.
A brief description of services impacted are provided below:
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.