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June 30, 2017

Prieto opens New Jersey budget vote; lawmakers deadlocked with shutdown at midnight

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has opened voting on a budget in an effort to pass the spending plan before a state government shutdown but lawmakers are deadlocked.

Prieto said Friday he will leave the voting session open but declined to say how late, the Associated Press reported.

RELATED: N.J. government shutdown: What residents can expect

The standoff is largely the result of a disagreement between Christie and Prieto over a measure that targets the state’s largest health insurer.

The current fiscal year budget expires at midnight Saturday. At a news conference Friday afternoon, Republican Gov. Chris Christie reiterated that he would shut down government if a budget does not reach his desk.

He told reporters that state legislators had two choices: approve both the nearly $35 billion budget as well as a controversial bill that affects Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, or OK a budget without the Horizon bill and forgo $325 million for Democratic projects.

"They don't want either one of them," the governor said. "What do you want me to do?"

Voting was stalled on Friday night with 26 votes in favor, 25 against and 24 abstentions, the AP reported. Forty-one votes are needed to pass the budget.

Prieto says he blames those abstaining for closing down the government. Christie has pinned the blame on Prieto because the speaker will not agree to legislation making over the state’s largest health insurer.

A shutdown at midnight Saturday would come on the cusp of the Fourth of July holiday. State parks and nonessential services like the Motor Vehicles Commission would be shuttered.