TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — On the eve of a budget deadline in New Jersey, there appears to be a deadlock in the state Assembly that could bring government operations to a halt at midnight Friday.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto brought the $34.7 billion spending plan to the floor for a vote late Thursday, but 34 of the 80 members opted to sit it out, including over two-dozen Democrats.
“Those are the people that want to shut down government and their districts should know about it,” Prieto told reporters after recessing the session, which is set to resume at 1 PM on Friday.
The issue in dispute: a plan passed in the senate and backed by Governor Chris Christie to tap into Horizon Blue Cross reserves to fund opioid treatment programs.
It’s part of an overall compromise Christie says was hammered out last week with legislative leadership, including Prieto.
“I’m ready to go. The Senate President’s ready to go. The entire senate body is ready to go,” Christie told reporters in Trenton. “The Speaker’s gotta decide. Is the speaker going to close state government to protect a multi-million dollar insurance company?”
The State Senate approved not only the Blue Cross plan, but another Christie initiative that allows for state lottery revenue to bolster the sagging state pension fund. But they have to wait on the Assembly before acting on the overall spending plan.
Without an agreement on the entire package, the Governor vows to lie item veto Democratic initiatives, including education funding reforms, should a budget reach his desk.