NJ Governor spokesman defends Christie, blames Democrats for NJ budget impasse
(CNN) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s spokesman pushed back against criticism of the governor for lounging on the beach Sunday while state parks were closed because of a government shutdown, saying Monday that the blame for the budget impasse lies with the Democratic speaker of the state’s General Assembly.
“The governor cannot open up government until he has a spending plan,” Brian Murray told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “He has provided one. The Democrats have provided another. He is willing to sign that one. Most Democrats are on board. Only the speaker of the assembly is holding it up.”
The Garden State shut down Friday night after the state legislature failed to pass a budget by the July 1 deadline, furloughing an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 state workers and forcing the temporary closure of all 40 state parks, beaches, recreational areas, and historic sites for the July 4 holiday.
Christie came under fire Monday after local media sources released photos of the Christie family on a deserted beach outside the governor’s residence on Island Beach State Park. Christie’s own Republican lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, questioned the governor’s decision.
“If I were governor, I sure wouldn’t be sitting on the beach if taxpayers didn’t have access to state beaches. It’s beyond words,” said Guadagno, who is the Republican nominee running to succeed Christie in the election later this year, in a Facebook post Monday.
Murray responded to the criticism by placing blame for the budget impasse on uncooperative members of the legislature.
“Every day, (Christie) tries to convene the legislature, and the assembly members don’t show up,” Murray said, adding, “Some are showing up, but not the key players — the speaker, in particular.”
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto refused to allow the spending bill to come to a vote in the House last week. He argued it would give the state too much oversight of its largest health care insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.
It’s not the first time the two have butted heads. Just last year, Prieto and Christie clashed over a state takeover of Atlantic City.
“(Christie) would be happy to sign a budget, by the way — if you can convince the speaker to send him one,” Murray said.