TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey's government shutdown dragged into a second day Sunday without a resolution to the stalemate between a defiant Republican Gov. Chris Christie and an unmoving Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto as residents felt the sting of shuttered services.
Christie ordered the Democrat-led Legislature to return on Sunday to consider a path around the budget impasse, which centers on Christie's proposal to overhaul the state's largest health insurer. He also scheduled a news conference for Sunday afternoon to address the issue.
Democrats are splintered over the impasse, with Prieto opposed to the plan, but Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney behind it.
The term-limited, unpopular governor delivered a roughly half-hour speech to a joint session on a rare Saturday session, blaming the shutdown on Prieto, whose photo the administration has placed at the closed entrances of state parks. Christie then spent Saturday night with his family at a state-owned residence in Island Beach State Park, which was among several public sites shuttered by the shutdown.
Christie ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services, like parks and motor vehicle offices, on Friday after he and lawmakers failed to agree on terms to enact a $34.7 billion budget. Christie is demanding that lawmakers pass Senate-approved legislation to make over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.
On Saturday, the public began feeling the effects of the shutdown.
Among those affected were a group of Cub Scouts forced to leave a state park campsite and people trying to obtain or renew documents from the state motor vehicle commission.
Andrew Spears, a leader with Cub Scout Pack 124 in Tinton Falls, said his group was told to leave Cheesequake State Park in Old Bridge. His group of roughly 45 — including about 25 children — had planned to camp all weekend.
"We knew this was probably coming, but it's still a shame we have to head out," Spears said Saturday morning.
Also closed was Island Beach State Park, where the state owns a residence that the governor can use. Asked Saturday if it was fair for his family to be able to use the park while others couldn't, Christie was defiant.
"The governor has a residence at Island Beach," he said. "Others don't. That's the way it goes. Run for governor and you can have the residence."
Remaining open under the shutdown are New Jersey Transit, state prisons, the state police, state hospitals and treatment centers as well as casinos, race tracks and the lottery.
Liberty State Park was closed, forcing the suspension of ticket sales and ferry service from the site to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the latter two sites remain open.
Prieto is refusing to support Christie's Horizon bill, and his chamber remains deadlocked over the budget because some Democrats say they worry that Christie would line-item veto education spending in the budget if he doesn't get the Horizon legislation. Christie has said as much.
Christie dedicated most of his speech Saturday to casting Horizon as greedy and opaque.
The Senate legislation requires the company to publish financial information and elect public board members. It gives the state insurance commissioner the ability to set a range for the company's surplus, which the company must use to benefit policy holders and the public if the limit is exceeded. That final change would not take effect until after Christie leaves office.
The legislation is a change from what Christie initially sought, which was to tap into the insurer's $2.4 billion surplus to finance opioid addiction treatment.
But Prieto says he's concerned about tweaking the state's biggest insurer, which is a nonprofit that has four board members appointed by the governor, at a time when congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump are contemplating overhauling the Affordable Care Act.
Horizon opposes the proposed changes.