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Health Insurer Measure Shuts Down New Jersey Government

  • Associated Press

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laughs at a question from the media after speaking in Trenton, N.J. Donald Trump is pledging that the government he appoints will bring sweeping change to Washington’s culture, Aug. 29, 2016 file photo.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature are to return to work Saturday to try to resolve the state’s first government shutdown since 2006 and the first under Christie.

The Republican governor and the Democrat-led Legislature failed to reach an agreement on a new budget by the deadline at midnight Friday.

Christie ordered nonessential services, including state parks and the motor vehicle commission to close beginning Saturday. He and lawmakers are in a stalemate over whether to include legislation affecting the state’s largest health insurer into the state budget.

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.

Insurer's surplus

Christie and 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 Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent 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.

Prieto has said he will leave open a vote on the $34.7 billion budget that remains deadlocked 26-25, with 24 abstentions, until those 24 abstentions change their mind.

Lawmakers wait

Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, of Northfield, was among those abstaining. He reasoned that if the governor did not get the Horizon bill, then nearly $150 million in school funding, $9.6 million of which would go to his district, would be line-item vetoed out of the budget.

And indeed, Christie said Friday during a news conference that he would slash the Democratic spending priorities if he did not get the Horizon bill as part of a package deal on the budget.

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