Christie promises N.J. Legislature will work through weekend on budget deal over ‘speaker’s shutdown’

 New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie speaks Friday, June 30, 2017, in Trenton, N.J. Christie said that a state government shutdown is likely if he doesn't get an agreement by midnight with Democratic lawmakers on the budget. A stalemate over his proposal to overhaul the state's largest health insurance company was at issue. (Michael Catalini/AP Photo/)

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie speaks Friday, June 30, 2017, in Trenton, N.J. Christie said that a state government shutdown is likely if he doesn't get an agreement by midnight with Democratic lawmakers on the budget. A stalemate over his proposal to overhaul the state's largest health insurance company was at issue. (Michael Catalini/AP Photo/)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature returned to work Saturday to try to resolve the state’s first government shutdown since 2006 and the first under Christie.

Christie ordered nonessential services, including state parks and the motor vehicle commission to close beginning Saturday as he and lawmakers remain in a stalemate over whether to include legislation affecting the state’s largest health insurer into the state budget.

During a Saturday morning press conference, Christie promised to use his authority to call the Legislature back again tomorrow if there is no deal, referring to it as “the Speaker’s shutdown,” and calling on Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to discuss the substance of the bill. “This is embarrassing and it’s pointless,” Christie said of the impasse.

Budget talks fell apart when Prieto failed to support a bill to make over the state’s largest health insurer. The measure was backed by Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“In the end, we have an insurance company of the state that covers 55 percent of the market,” Christie said during the presser. “The second highest revenue line is investments, instead of paying claims. All I want here, is transparency and accountability on behalf of Horizon. This is about long-term reform.”

The shutdown means state parks and nonessential services like the Motor Vehicle Commission are shutting down just ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Prisons, the state police and casinos will remain open, as will the lottery.

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