Another government shutdown? Murphy says be ready on July 1
TRENTON — New Jersey government could shut down for the second time in as many years if lawmakers and the governor fail to agree on a new budget this month.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday instructed his administration to begin preparing for a scenario in which he would have to order all non-essential offices to close on July 1. The budget year ends June 30.
In a separate memo on Friday, state Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio ordered the state government to freeze all hiring, promotions and discretionary spending in order to make sure the state will have enough money this month to pay for essential services.
Last year, Gov. Chris Christie closed the state government after Democrats in the Assembly held up a budget vote in a fight over Christie wanting to use Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield funds to pay for addiction services.
While Democrats this year control both chambers of the Legislature as well as the governor's office, that doesn't seem to matter.
Murphy has proposed $1.5 billion in new taxes, which Senate President Steve Sweeney has not supported. Sweeney on Thursday said Democratic leaders have agreed to change the school funding formula, which would result in some districts that have been getting more than their fair share under the existing formula to lose funds.
That plan has not been endorsed by Murphy — and Sweeney on on Thursday said he would shut down the government if an agreement is not reached on school funding.
Murphy, appearing on New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor" on Thursday, said that his staff had made "very good progress" in the last few months with Senate and Assembly staff in terms of reaching a school funding deal.
But Murphy's shutdown-preparation letter a day later indicates otherwise.
NJ.com, which obtained a copy of the letter, cited sources saying that Assembly, Senate and Murphy staff ended a "hostile" meeting with curse words.
The shutdown last year lasted three days with most government offices and parks closed to the public. The budget drama provided one of the most iconic images of Christie's governorship when a news photographer in a helicopter snapped a picture of Christie and his family relaxing on Island Beach State Park, otherwise empty for miles because nobody else was allowed in.