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July 02, 2017

Twitter fumes over #NJshutdown as Christie demands lawmakers return to table

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered Democratic lawmakers to resume negotiations Sunday on the state's budget impasse, which continues to put a damper on holiday plans amid a shutdown of nonessential government services.

The stalemate marks New Jersey's first government shutdown since 2006, this time revolving around bundled legislation to overhaul finances for the state's largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. An attachment to the proposed $34.7 billion budget, already passed by the Senate, would require the non-for-profit health insurance corporation to establish a $300 million reserve fund for public health services including heroin and opioid addiction treatment.

Democratic members of the New Jersey Assembly, led by Speaker Vincent Prieto, have steadfastly opposed the Horizon bill on grounds that it extorts the company's 3.8 million rate payers. Christie, who has the support of Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, argues Horizon "has forgotten why we created them in the first place." 

The ensuing political battle quickly turned ugly, with Christie and Prieto trading attacks on Twitter.

For residents and visitors of New Jersey, the impact of the shutdown has already cut into recreational plans, at state parks and beaches, suspended temporary disability and family leave insurance claims, and disrupted service at public offices including DMV locations and inspection stations throughout the state. 

People are less than thrilled with the situation. Tweets disparaging Christie, whose final year in office comes with a historically low job approval rating, have poured in since news of the approaching shutdown broke on Friday. For many, it didn't help matters that Christie's family is permitted to stay at the gubernatorial beach house at State Park, or that President Donald Trump was expected to spend the holiday weekend golfing in New Jersey.