Budget Standoffs Persist in New Jersey and Maine

By Kate King Features Dow Jones Newswires

State government remained closed in New Jersey on Sunday, with Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic lawmakers seemingly no closer to reaching a budget deal that would reopen state parks and beaches for the remainder of the holiday weekend.

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More than 30,000 state workers will be furloughed Monday unless an agreement is reached, Mr. Christie said Sunday at an afternoon news conference in Trenton. Essential employees, including state police, will remain on duty.

"If the leadership came to an agreement today then I could reopen government tomorrow," the governor said, referring to the state Legislature. "But I don't know if we'll have an agreement today."

New Jersey is one of several states across the country mired in budget disputes. In Maine, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has implemented a partial shutdown until Monday. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday signed an executive order that sharply curtailed state spending after the Legislature failed to approve a budget plan to close a two-year deficit of $5.1 billion. In Illinois, lawmakers worked through the weekend to try to pass a spending plan.

New Jersey lawmakers missed Friday's midnight deadline to pass a balanced budget, prompting Mr. Christie to close state government. Visitors were turned away from state beaches and parks Saturday and Sunday, although the governor and his family spent the weekend at a state-owned residence in Island Beach State Park.

Mr. Christie said he would sign a budget sent to him by Democrats, including more than $300 million in additional spending for education and other services, but only if lawmakers passed a bill giving the state more control over its largest insurer. The insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, has strongly opposed the legislation.

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Mr. Christie, who earlier this year said he wanted the company to contribute to a new state fund for addiction-treatment services, has called for more transparency on executive and lobbyist pay and more state oversight of its finances. A spokesman for Horizon said the proposed legislation would be unduly burdensome and force the insurer to raise premiums.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, has refused to put the legislation demanded by Mr. Christie up for a vote, calling it an unfair intervention in the not-for-profit company that shouldn't be part of the budget process. Mr. Prieto and the governor were both at the Statehouse over the weekend but haven't spoken since Friday.

Mr. Christie, who is prevented by term limits from running for a third term, is scheduled to leave office in January. His lieutenant governor, who is also the Republican nominee in the race to replace him, said she supports setting aside the Horizon bill and finalizing the budget.

In Maine, Gov. LePage ordered the state's first shutdown since 1991, after lawmakers failed to strike a deal on new taxes and education funding.

"The Maine people are taxed enough," Mr. LePage said in a statement. "I will not tax them any more and in my budget overall taxes were decreased. Maine has plenty of revenue to fund state government without raising taxes."

Essential services in the state remain in place as will a host of others including some state parks, unemployment benefits and child welfare.

--Kate Linebaugh contributed to this article.

Write to Kate King at Kate.King@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 02, 2017 18:55 ET (22:55 GMT)