Standoff Ends in Budget Deal for New Jersey

TRENTON — New Jersey legislators and Gov. Chris Christie struck a budget deal on Monday night that reopened state beaches and parks for the Fourth of July holiday, ending a standoff over Mr. Christie’s demand that the governor’s office be given more control over the state’s largest health insurer.

Mr. Christie appeared to have backed off on a demand that had brought the budget process to a halt: that the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, turn over $300 million from its reserves to fund opioid addiction therapy, an issue Mr. Christie has made the focus of his last months in office.

During a news conference late Monday night in Trenton, Mr. Christie acknowledged that he would have preferred that the money go to the drug treatment programs.

“I gave in on one point, yeah,” he said. “That’s the nature of compromise.”

The stalemate reverberated far beyond New Jersey after photos were published showing Mr. Christie relaxing on a state beach that had been closed by the impasse, infuriating many people whose own beach plans had been upended and unleashing a torrent of derision on social media.

“I wish it would’ve been resolved yesterday, the day before that or the day before that,’’ Mr. Christie told reporters. “Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday without having to be concerned about this.”

The governor had promised to veto key aspects of any budget unless lawmakers also passed a bill giving the state significant control over Horizon. Last week, the State Senate, led by Mr. Christie’s ally Stephen M. Sweeney, passed such a bill. But Vincent Prieto, speaker of the State Assembly, had refused to go along.

The entrance to Atsion Village and Recreation Center at Wharton State Forest in Shamong, N.J., on Sunday.CreditJohn Taggart for The New York Times

However, after meetings on Monday with Robert A. Marino, the chief executive of Horizon, and conversations between the governor’s office and the leadership of both houses, a revised bill was crafted that provided no money for opioid programs and maintains Horizon’s autonomy.

The bill would cap Horizon’s reserves based on a formula, with the excess money going back to its rate payers, instead of to the state as Mr. Christie wanted.

Mr. Marino issued a statement saying the deal achieved “a goal we established when the governor first introduced the idea of taking our reserves.”

“Horizon could only agree to legislation that is reasonable, avoids higher costs for our members, and that does not impose unfair or excessive obligations,” Mr. Marino said.

Mr. Christie said the Horizon bill amounted to “a long overdue, significant reform” and said he was pleased even though he did not get everything he had wanted and couched the Horizon bill as a victory.

“I’m saddened that it’s three days late, but I’ll sign the budget tonight,” Mr. Christie said.

Vincent Prieto, the speaker of the State Assembly, at a news conference in Trenton on Sunday.CreditJohn Taggart for The New York Times

Lawmakers were pleased to reach a resolution and happy that state beaches and parks would open on Tuesday.

“We have spent the entire day up until about 15 minutes ago hammering out details of a Horizon deal,” Mr. Sweeney said. “This is the best budget we’ve seen in 10 years. It provides for a lot of people.”

And Mr. Prieto said the deal ended a “crisis” and had his support because Horizon had agreed to its terms.

New Jersey state beaches and parks as well as government offices had remained closed on Monday as the budget impasse entered its third day.

The stalemate threatened to extend to the Fourth of July holiday, forcing thousands of families to revise plans that involved state parks or beaches, which have been shut down since Saturday.

Mr. Christie had ordered some 30,000 state employees to stay home without pay after the state did not reach a budget agreement by the start of a new fiscal year on Saturday, as the state Constitution requires. Mr. Sweeney said he hoped that Mr. Christie would pay state workers for Monday.

Monday was the first regular workday since the shutdown. State courthouses were mostly closed, as were most motor vehicle offices and other state offices not considered vital to public safety. On social media, people expressed anger about having to alter their holiday plans and not being able to tend to basic tasks such as replacing their driver’s license.

As many families adjusted their plans, photographs showing Mr. Christie and his family sprawled across a state beach closed to the public but near an official governor’s residence continued to draw outrage. Many visitors to state parks were disappointed as well.

At Liberty State Park in Jersey City, a long line of cars from far-flung states and Canada waited to enter for views across the harbor. One by one, they were directed to make U-turns at a police checkpoint blocking an entrance. Those hoping to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty were directed to head instead to Lower Manhattan.

Carloads of tourists commiserated. Jenny Lim and her husband, Sammy Jay, had driven from Philadelphia with relatives who had flown 23 hours from Indonesia hoping to see the Statue of Liberty.

“Almost two and a half hours for driving from Philadelphia, and we still can’t see the statue,” Ms. Lim said as she sat in their parked car. They were debating whether to drive to Manhattan. One family member joked, “I’ll buy a torch toy in Chinatown instead.”

Maritime Parc, a popular restaurant on the waterfront at the park, has been allowed to remain open during the shutdown, with police officers letting its customers pass through the checkpoint. Wedding parties made it through, after a bit of a panic. But the chef and a co-owner, Chris Siversen, said dining room sales had been down 40 percent over the weekend.

“That was a big hit,” Mr. Siversen said.

In Trenton on Monday night, Mr. Christie insisted that the budget deal and the benefits it would provide would be remembered far longer than the shutdown or the “gotcha journalism that some people have played.”

And he was pretty clear about his plans for Tuesday. “I’ll go back to the beach,” he said. “That’s where my family is, that’s where I’ll go back to.”

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