WOODLAND PARK, N.J. — New Jersey residents awoke Saturday to the first day of a state government shutdown, a day many had planned to use to either kick start the Fourth of July holiday at a park or run some errands at state offices.
The shutdown scuttled those plans.
A dispute between Gov. Chris Christie, a deeply unpopular governor in the final months of his second term, and the Democratic leader in the state Assembly, Vincent Prieto, has blocked the Legislature from passing a state budget. Their fight is over a plan to overhaul control of the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, a non-profit that operates under special state laws.
With no new spending plan, Christie ordered all non-essential state services halted at midnight Friday. That meant no state parks, no chance to renew a driver’s license and no work for nearly all state employees.
hree cyclists huddled in a small patch of grass figuring out what to do and where to ride after the officer at the entrance informed them that the park was closed because of the shutdown
One cyclist, Neville L’Green, said he thought it was ironic that the government shutdown occurred on Fourth of July weekend.
“My thought is the reason they’ve shut down is they haven’t got a budget,” L’Green said, leaning on his bike. “So they’ve shut down on the weekend that generates the most money for the state. So that’s pretty stupid.”
L’Green said that he usually uses the park a few times a week during the summer.
Wendy Schoeler, who moved to Jersey City two months ago, said she would go on runs regularly at the riverside park.
“I guess Chris Christie is the problem, right?” Schoeler said. “I don’t know, it just seems like really bad timing. Fourth of July weekend. You don’t want to be in the park? And we can’t go to the beaches now, apparently.”
A flier featuring Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto outside the governor's office in Trenton. (Photo: Dustin Racioppi/northjersey.com)
Although many of the beaches in the state are municipal property, some beaches, like Island Beach State Park, are state-owned and are closed.
Along with providing expansive green space, the park also gives visitors on the New Jersey side access to Ellis Island. The historic landmark brings local visitors, as well as some from far away.
“This is one of Jersey City’s biggest attractions,” said Jake Hornstein. “We just saw a car with Canadian license plates. Just to see it”
For many, the weekends are the only time they can make it to local department of motor vehicle offices.
At a Motor Vehicle Commission office in Lodi, some cars were being turned away by a police officer patrolling the lot. Others made it as far as the front door, where they were greeted by locked doors with the sign blaming Prieto.
“We gotta get rid of these guys,” said Tim Kosturko, as he got back into his van. “We’re paying these people. We’re paying for this motor vehicle (office). What the hell’s going on here.”
Many people who came to renew their license were wondering what would happen if they were pulled over with an expired license.
“We need it,” said Norma Villasanta of Garfield. “What are you going to do? The police are going to stop you, ticket you and send you to court.”
The Lodi office is one of the only offices in the area that has a driving test course. Carrying his driver’s permit, which he had received Friday, Julian Henao was there to complete the process and run through the course. Henao, 17, had come from Wallington.
When told he’d have to wait until a budget was approved, Henao sighed.
Gov. Chris Christie addresses the Legislature Saturday afternoon during the government shutdown, which he ordered Friday night after reaching an impasse in budget negotiations with Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. (Photo: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com)
Source: USA Today