Gov. Chris Christie, NJ lawmakers at impasse as state parks remain closed in shutdown

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Candace McCowan has the latest on the New Jersey government shutdown (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

New Jersey's government shutdown enters its third day Monday, much to the disappointment of residents and visitors looking to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday weekend at state parks and beaches.

Meanwhile, Governor Chris Christie was caught lounging with his family on a beach at a state park he ordered closed amid the stalemate.

Lawmakers are in a showdown over whether to include legislation affecting the state's largest health insurer into the state budget. Christie said he would order the legislature to get back to work Monday, which he also did Saturday and Sunday.

RELATED: What's open/closed amid New Jersey government shutdown.

"I'm frustrated, quite frankly, at this point that no one will send me any budget," Christie said. "I'm sitting here waiting for a budget, and no one will send me one...I'm here. I'm working. I'm ready to sign a budget if they send me one."

After that press conference, Christie flew back to the Island Beach State Park by state helicopter. He defended his decision, saying if his family is there, he wants to join them.

"That's where my family is sleeping so that's where I'll sleep," he said. "When I have a choice between sleeping with my family or sleeping alone, I generally like to sleep where my family is."

Christie defended his use of the state property during the shutdown that affected the public, which is being kept out of state parks with signs blaming Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, on Saturday, saying: "That's the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have the residence."

Christie said Sunday that he's "frustrated" by the shutdown and is open to making a deal to reopen government.

Few lawmakers were around the statehouse Sunday, and Christie said that unless he sent state police to retrieve them he could not force them to be there.

Christie, for at least the second time, referred to himself as "Mr. Reasonable" and said he would consider the Democratic budget along with legislation to overhaul the state's biggest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Or without the Horizon legislation he has called for, he would line item veto about $350 million of the Democratic priorities.

"It should end today. Send me a budget," he said. "I'm ready to work, but I can't work if I don't have any money. These guys have to get their act together."

Also on Sunday, Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, who's allied with Christie, called for a meeting with lawmakers and Horizon's CEO to try to hash out a way forward.

Horizon said CEO Bob Marino would attend. Horizon opposes Christie and Sweeney's proposal.

Democrats are splintered over the impasse, with Prieto opposed to the plan and Sweeney in favor.

The term-limited governor blames the shutdown on Prieto, who continues to hold open a vote on the Assembly floor on the $34.7 billion budget that remains deadlocked with 27 yes votes, shy of the 41 needed to succeed. Democrats who are abstaining say they worry about Christie line item vetoing education funding from the budget.

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.

Christie had demanded that lawmakers pass Senate-approved legislation to make over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, but on Sunday said he'd reopen the government under either scenario.

Prieto has said he's concerned about tweaking the state's biggest insurer when congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump are contemplating overhauling the Affordable Care Act.

Over the weekend, the public began feeling the effects of the shutdown.

Among those affected were Cub Scouts forced to leave a state park campsite and people trying to obtain or renew documents from the state motor vehicle commission.

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 remained open.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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