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June 29, 2018

Government shutdown looms in New Jersey: state parks and beaches could close for second straight year

Governor, legislature at odds over millionaires tax

New Jersey is inching closer to a shutdown as Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and state lawmakers face off over proposed tax increases.

If a balanced budget is not passed before July 1, government offices, public beaches and state parks would likely be closed. It would be the second straight year the deadline was missed in New Jersey.

On Thursday, Murphy met with legislative leaders for more than two hours on the $36.5 billion spending plan, but no agreement was announced, with leaders saying they would resume discussions on Friday morning, NJ Spotlight reported.

“We had a good meeting and (we’re) looking forward to getting back at it,’” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) told the news site.

To increase schools funding, transit subsidies and a pension payment, Murphy seeks an income tax increase – from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent – for people earning more than $1 million, according to the Associated Press. The first-term governor also has offered a two-year phase-in of a hike in the sales tax from 6.625 percent to 7 percent, as well as an increase in business taxes.

At a news conference in Trenton on Thursday afternoon, Murphy said he could use a line-item veto to remove spending from the budget bill sent to him by the Legislature, NJ Spotlight reported. That would allow him to keep open state-run beaches, parks and other government operations through the weekend. It would also mean spending in the millions of dollars would be slashed from the lawmakers' spending plan.

If the government shutdown does happen at midnight Sunday, the following state parks, beaches and forests in South Jersey would likely be closed:

• Barnegat Lighthouse State Park in Barnegat Light

• Corson's Inlet State Park in Ocean City and Upper Township

• Cape May Point State Park at Cape May Point

• Frank S. Farley State Marina in Atlantic City

• Island Beach State Park in Seaside Park, Ocean County

• Parvin State Park in Pittsgrove, Salem County

• Penn State Forest in Tuckerton, Ocean County

• Belleplaine State Forest in Cape May and Cumberland counties

• Wharton State Forest in Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties

• Bass River State Forest in Burlington and Ocean counties