Christie orders state to prepare for shutdown over budget impasse

TRENTON a Gov. Chris Christie Thursday night ordered state agencies to prepare for a funding freeze for nonessential services hours after blaming Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto for sending the state careening toward a government shutdown.

In a letter to his cabinet members, Christie told officials to "review and prepare to implement contingency plans in the event of a government shutdown due to inaction by Assembly Speaker Prieto."

The letter was drafted after Prieto (D-Hudson) refused to let the Assembly vote on a bill allowing the state to tap into the reserves of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

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Democrats Plot to Oust Prieto Unless He Caves on Horizon

By Salvador Rizzo • 06/28/17

Observer

Vincent Prieto.

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In an explosive development, a group of Democratic lawmakers is planning to oust Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto on Thursday if he refuses to post a bill that would restructure New Jersey’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, three sources told Observer.

Gov. Chris Christie for months has been calling on lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow the state to raid the insurer’s $2.4 billion reserve fund after he leaves office. Christie wants the state to take roughly $300 million a year from the not-for-profit company and devote it to drug treatment programs, a move that would provide relief for the cash-strapped state budget.

The state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved a similar bill on Monday, sponsored by Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex). The bill has been fast-tracked this week and is up for a vote in the full Senate on Thursday. Democrats say Christie has agreed to an extra $125 million they added for schools in the new $34.7 billion state budget due Saturday, so long as they give him a Horizon bill and another, non-controversial piece of legislation.

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Less Crime, Fewer Prisoners – New Senate Bill Creates Incentives to Reduce Mass Incarceration

Brennan Center for Justice

June 28, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Lawmakers introduced a bill today that would use the power of the purse to reduce incarceration and crime at the same time. The legislation attempts to counter archaic “tough-on-crime” policies coming from the Attorney General.
 
The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.). The bill, based on a 2015 proposal by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, is widely-backed by civil rights advocacy groups and supporters of criminal justice reform.
 
The bill is essentially the reverse of the incentives provided in the “1994 Crime Bill.” Instead of incentivizing states to increase prison populations, the legislation would pay states to decrease them, while keeping down crime. Federal grants have long created perverse incentives for states and localities to boost their prison populations, even when doing so provides little public safety benefit. The bill would encourage states to embolden their reform efforts, even while Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempts to increase the federal prison population.

 

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Clean Energy Fund Raided (Again) to Plug Last Hole in State Budget

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Rare G.O.P. Species Runs for New Jersey Governor: A Moderate

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. — The Republican candidate for governor of New Jersey sat on a plush beige couch in the Republican mayor’s condo, surrounded by Republican county officials and politicians, and offered up her plan to stem what is perhaps the state’s most daunting challenge — its deepening property tax crisis.

She adopted it, she said, from an unexpected source.

“This is a page out of the Democratic playbook, it really is,” Kim Guadagno, the lieutenant governor said, noting that the plan came from a proposal in deep-blue Illinois.

With Republicans controlling the White House, both chambers of Congress and having successfully fended off Democratic challenges in four special elections this year, the party is enjoying a dominance not seen for decades and has left the Democrats divided and demoralized. But as they’ve blazed a trail turning many parts of the country red, Republicans in traditionally blue states, like New Jersey, are facing longer odds than ever.

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Budget Stalemate Threatens 2018 Transportation Projects Worth $4B

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Christie Questions ‘Unfair’ Parts of Democrats’ School Funding Deal

By Christian Hetrick • 06/20/17

Observer

Gov. Chris Christie.

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Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that parts of a Democratic school funding proposal are “discouraging and unfair” as he prepares to negotiate with lawmakers this week over next year’s state budget.

Speaking at an unrelated news conference in Pennington, Christie declined to specify what he found wrong with the proposal. But he said he has questions about “where money is going and how it’s distributed.”

Last week, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced an agreement on school funding that would provide $100 million in additional school aid than what Christie has proposed and an extra $25 million for preschool education.

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Sweeney, NJEA Square off in Ugly Brawl About School Funding

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Christie’s Budget Could Divert $175M from Exxon Settlement

By Christian Hetrick • 06/16/17

Observer

John McKeon, right.

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The state could divert millions of dollars from environmental remediation this year before voters have a chance to decide whether to prohibit such budgetary raids, according to a state lawmaker and environmental advocacy groups.

Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed $35 billion budget for fiscal 2018 includes a provision that places a $50 million cap on how much money won from natural resource damage settlements can go into an environmental site cleanup fund. For settlements larger than $50 million, any amount above that threshold would go into the state’s general fund.

This is the third straight year the state budget has included such language. But the provision takes on special significance this year, because $225 million from a settlement with ExxonMobil is currently in escrow and could become subject to that budget language, said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex).

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Mission Impossible? Bramnick, Prieto Want to Make NJ Politics More Polite

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