The Implications Of New Jersey's Government Shutdown

Jul 1, 2017
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we just mentioned, one of the states that's been shut down is New Jersey. The legislature and governor failed to agree on a $35 billion state budget that was supposed to start today. Lawmakers in Trenton are back in session trying to come up with a deal. WNYC's Karen Rouse is in Trenton, is going to tell us more about that. Karen, hi. Thanks so much for joining us.

KAREN ROUSE, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So what are some of the consequences that people are experiencing? And how do residents feel about all this?

ROUSE: So what the shutdown means is that things like state parks and state beaches are closed, and so people aren't happy about it. I went today to Washington Crossing Park. And that's a park that sits along the Delaware River. And I wanted to talk to people. And there was a lot of disappointment that I found. Cathy Barker (ph) drove over the state line from Yardley, Pa., hoping to enjoy a little nature and share a cupcake with her little grandson. Here's her take.

CATHY BARKER: It's really sad that it's the things that families do together that are closed down. You know, I think they said the casinos are open. It's the money makers, which I understand to a point because they need the money coming in. But, you know, how much does it really cost to run the park?

ROUSE: Given that this is a weekend and near to a holiday, probably most people won't know about it because the offices are normally closed anyway. But if this lingers past the weekend, it'll be a problem. Some motor vehicle services can be done on line, but if you need your car inspected, for example, you're out of luck.

MARTIN: Is there a particular issue that's keeping the two sides apart, a particular sticking point?

ROUSE: Both sides continue to be at odds over a bill. Christie says we'll reform Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Assembly speaker Vincent Prieto says the move will harm the insurance customers. While I was at the park, I actually met a cyclist who is a Horizon customer and has been paying attention to the budget stalemate.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Christie wants to take money from Blue Cross Blue Shield Horizon, which is my provider. I don't think it's right that he does that, that the state can just kind of preempt. Oh, you've got some extra money. We're going to take it.

MARTIN: Sounds like this gentleman's particularly well-informed, but for those of us who aren't following this closely, what exactly does the governor want to do?

ROUSE: So Christie wants to use money from the reserve for health programs, but Prieto says that will hurt the insured members. Christie says he's ready to sign a bill, even if it doesn't include the Horizon reforms that he wants. However, he's made it clear if the bill doesn't include the measure, he'll slash some of the key provisions Democrats want, including millions of dollars in spending for education.

MARTIN: You know, now, New Jersey politics has - does have a reputation for being, you know, not exactly a tea party, but this sounds as though this has gotten particularly intense.

ROUSE: Yes, Michel. Christie has taken several shots at Assemblyman Prieto, saying he's had a temper tantrum. And Christie actually admitted to being behind several posters. Actually, there were 500 of them that have gone up around the state at closed facilities. And these posters feature a picture of Prieto's face and the word closed in big red letters across the top. And it says, this facility is closed because of this man.

Now, Prieto has taken this in stride. He said, if anyone goes to a closed facility, they now know who he is because his face was posted. But he also clarified that he doesn't have the power to declare a shutdown, only the governor can.

MARTIN: What is each side saying about how long they think this is going to go on? I mean, does - has the governor said anything about that? Has Mr. Prieto said anything about that?

ROUSE: They're continuing to talk, but both sides are really digging in on their positions. But right now around the statehouse, people are pretty much indicating that they expect to be back either tomorrow or Monday.

MARTIN: That's Karen Rouse with member station WNYC, reporting on the government shutdown of the state of New Jersey. She's in Trenton. Karen Rouse, thanks so much for speaking with us.

ROUSE: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.