Governor Chris Christie’s (R-NJ) rise to the national political stage was quickly tripped up by scandal. Christie, once a shoe-in for a national position, saw his political career begin to fall apart during Bridgegate, a controversy that led to criminal prosecution of members of his staff. He tried to make a comeback on the tails of Trump’s coat but was dismissed shortly after the election after delivering critical swing votes for the president. Christie’s legacy now includes a government shutdown.
While Christie did not single-handedly cause the closure, his face is on the failure. “It’s all going to come down to when folks get up tomorrow for the July 4th weekend and drive down to Island Beach State Park to spend the day, and a sign says it’s closed. They’re going to blame Gov. Christie and nobody else.” Said Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Polling at 15% approval rate, Christie is currently the country’s least popular governor. Despite his lack of popularity, the Governor still maintains his political strength.
Chris Christie has made fighting the state’s opioid crisis a primary focus of his office. In February of this year, Christie sought control over the reserve fund of the state’s non-profit Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. The company is the state’s largest health insurer. He seeks to use the plan to pay for drug addiction programs and has demanded that his plan is tied to the final budget.
After extensive debate, the State Senate passed a bill that is acceptable to Christie. However, the plan is being blocked by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) who staunchly opposes the Horizon Bill. Christie has asserted that if he is not sent the bill to sign he will use his line-item veto to cut $325 million in spending from the budget including school funding and social welfare programs.
Both the Senate and Assembly refused to pass the budget without assurance from the Governor that their spending priorities will remain intact.
What is Affected?
The deadline to pass the budget was last night at midnight. Shortly after midnight, with no budget in hand, Christie issued an order that closed non-essential government offices and services. State parks and beaches will be closed, just in time for 4th of July travel. Motor Vehicle offices will also be closed come Monday. Courts may be closed as well, and thousands of government employees will be furloughed.
Many see the Horizon Bill as Christie’s last-ditch effort to maintain national political relevance, this shutdown, however, proves to further tarnish his political legacy.