Legislative staffers are writing a new bill that could help break the logjam holding up passage of the state budget, following meetings Monday afternoon between Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield’s top executive and legislative leaders.

That work will probably lead to additional meetings or votes later Monday, as lawmakers seek an accord that would satisfy Gov. Chris Christie, who says he’ll line-item veto $325 million in spending added to the budget by Democrats unless lawmakers pass a bill overhauling how the state regulates Horizon.

"We’re making progress,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who has refused to allow a vote on Horizon changes approved by the Senate. “I've instructed my staff to start doing some drafting, some of the concepts, and then we’ll go from there. We're making progress.”

“We will hopefully be voting on the budget soon,” said Prieto.

The Assembly has been voting on the budget since Friday evening. The bill currently has 28 of the votes that would be needed for passage, far short of the 41 needed, because a block of Democrats has voted to abstain, hoping to force a vote on the Horizon bill.

Sen. Joseph Vitale, the chief sponsor of the Horizon bill in the Senate, was more reserved in his assessment of Monday’s meeting.

“I wouldn’t say that we’re any closer. I’d say we’re not farther apart,” Vitale said. “And we had a conversation today. So that’s going to continue. We’re going to be here until we can get this done.”

“I think it was just progress. We’ll find out later whether it was substantial or not,” he said.

Horizon CEO Bob Marino told reporters it was “a very productive meeting.”

“I think it was a good conversation. I think it was very productive. I think there were a lot of open minds in that room and we’ll see where we go from here,” Marino said.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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