Monday, 18 June, 2018

NJ Government Shuts Down Over Horizon Dispute

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Terence Owen | 02 July, 2017, 04:57

New Jersey's government shut down on Friday at midnight after legislators failed to pass a budget before the July 1 deadline amid a political standoff.

Chris Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature returned to the statehouse Saturday to try to resolve the shutdown, the state's first since 2006 and the first under Christie.

The parties agree on the underlying budget and a Christie proposal to shore up the pension by transferring it to the lottery, but Christie says he wants the proposal affecting Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Budget talks fell apart when Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto failed to support a bill to make over the state's largest health insurer. State beaches and parks would close, including Liberty State Park, which overlooks New York City and is scheduled to host more than 100,000 people for its annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks display on Tuesday. State prisons, hospitals, police departments and other essential facilities will remain open.

"I don't know if it's fair, but they are not asking for any services", Christie said during a Saturday news conference in Trenton. "It is clear that New Jersey needs new leadership in the Governor's Office".

Christie repeatedly referred to the government closure as "the speaker's shutdown".

"I will consider it once a budget is signed".

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Washington is helping Kuwait, which has retained ties with Qatar, to mediate the dispute. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey has backed Qatar in the dispute.

Prieto held a vote Friday on the budget that remained deadlocked with only 26 yes votes out of 41 needed to prevail.

Christie addressed the legislature Saturday afternoon, saying Horizon is making huge profits without any control by state government, which created Horizon in the first place.

However, despite the complicated origins of the shutdown, only one person will likely bear the brunt of the blame: Christie, who already has a historically low approval ratings.

Christie says the only leader not in favor of the deal he has offered was Prieto. To get his way, Christie had threatened to use his line-item veto power to cut Democratic spending initiatives from the budget. Christie floated the so-called "newspaper revenge" bill he tried to get past year, Prieto said, but the Democratic caucus would not support it.

The budget impasse stems from the fact that some members of Prieto's own caucus - mostly Democrats representing districts in South Jersey - want to vote on the Horizon deal and have abstained from voting on the Assembly budget until that happens.

NJ.com adds: "The legislation, vehemently fought by Horizon, a not-for-profit but tax-paying health services corporation with 3.8 million policyholders, would give the state insurance commissioner next year authority to decide how much money it could keep in reserve". Christie's Horizon proposal has perplexed some conservatives, who have rallied to oppose the legislation.

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