Shutdown drags on: ‘Look, it’s not ending today’
New Jersey’s government shutdown will continue on the Fourth of July holiday, keeping state parks closed, even if progress is made in a meeting this afternoon, says Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
Sweeney, D-Gloucester, was joined at a Statehouse news conference Monday by representatives of groups whose funding would likely be reduced though line-item vetoes if the budget was sent to Gov. Chris Christie without a separate bill changing how the state regulates Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, and the head of Horizon are meeting this hour at the Statehouse, but Sweeney said the logistics of the bill-making process mean “tomorrow evening would be the earliest” things could be resolved.
“It couldn’t end today if we wanted it to,” Sweeney said. “If we could get something done, you’d have to draft a bill. You’d have to have a hearing on the bill. We could get going tomorrow. We could get moving tomorrow. But then you’d have to get emergencies in both houses in order to vote on a bill.
“So, look, it’s not ending today,” Sweeney said.
The changes to Horizon’s governance, transparency and finances aren’t part of the budget, but Christie has said he’ll only accept $325 million in spending added by Democrats if the Horizon bill – or another significant public policy change to be determined – is passed.
Horizon has vociferously pushed back against the changes. The Senate passed them, but Prieto is refusing to consider them at this time – but enough fellow Democrats are withholding their support for the budget to keep it from passing, leading to the government shutdown.
“We really need to stay in a room. My goal is to get in a room and stay in a room until we get to a compromise,” Sweeney said. “It’s too important. Look, Saturday was a lost day. Sunday was a lost day. We’re here Monday. Tomorrow’s the Fourth of July, and I’ll be here tomorrow.”
Sweeney was asked at the news conference about the now-viral photos shot by New Jersey Advance Media for NJ.com of Christie and his family on the beach at Island Beach State Park, which is closed to the shutdown but is the location of the state-owned gubernatorial beach house.
Sweeney declined comment but offered a general observation of how Christie isn’t concerned with public perception – a point Christie himself has made when asked about things such as his job-approval rating, measured at 15 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University Poll.
“He’s at 15 percent approval rating right now. When we met with him, when the leadership met with him from both sides, he says, ‘I’m at 15.’ He said, ‘I’m not that far from zero,’” Sweeney said.
“Think about it: When he did his budget in 2011 that he really brutalized a lot of groups (through line-item vetoes), and you remember I said a lot of really bad things publicly, he was getting ready to run for re-election and he did that,” Sweeney said. “He can’t run again.”
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