NJ Politics Digest: Sweeney’s Bait-and-Switch on Christie and Horizon

From left: Steve Sweeney, Vincent Prieto and Chris Christie. Observer

A government shutdown became a real possibility on Thursday after Democrats refused to give Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto the votes to pass a new state budget until he agreed to post a controversial bill to restructure the state’s largest health insurance company.

The state has until midnight tonight to resolve the impasse, enact a budget and avert a shutdown. Prieto was resolute and insisted he would not let Gov. Chris Christie sign a sweeping restructuring of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield that could cut down its reserves.

In a stunning, self-defeating admission, Senate President Steve Sweeney said the Horizon bill was likely to be repealed if Phil Murphy, the Democratic nominee for governor, won the November election.

It begs the ultimate questions:

Why are Democrats so focused on passing this one bill if its chief booster says it will get thrown out in the end?

Is it dangerous to tinker with the state’s largest health care company to get a budget, if the ultimate plan is to undo that tinkering within several months?

And why would Christie keep up his end of the budget bargain knowing now that Democrats plan to undo their end once he leaves office?

Quote of the Day: “Phil Murphy wants this repealed, it’ll be repealed.” – Senate President Steve Sweeney, on the Horizon bill holding up a new state budget.

Horizon Showdown Grinds NJ Government to a Halt
A showdown between Democrats in the state Legislature prevented Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto from being able to pass a state budget on Thursday and brought New Jersey one step closer to a government shutdown.
Salvador Rizzo, Observer Read more

As shutdown looms over Horizon bill, Sweeney says it could be repealed
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Thursday evening that the single piece of legislation dragging the state towards a shutdown is likely to be repealed within months of a new governor taking office.
Katie Jennings and David Giambusso, Politico Read more

Christie Threatens Budget Vetoes Without Horizon Bill
Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday threatened to use his veto pen on the state budget if Democrats don’t send him a bill that restructures New Jersey’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, setting up a high-stakes game of chicken between the governor and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.
Christian Hetrick, Observer Read more

Here’s How Everyone Voted on the State Budget and Horizon
A breakdown of the Assembly’s vote on the budget and the Senate’s vote on the Horizon bill.
Christian Hetrick, Observer Read more

Prieto says he’s willing to sacrifice speakership over Horizon
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said Thursday he’s willing to sacrifice his speakership over his ongoing budget battle with Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
Matt Friedman, Politico Read more

Prieto Stands Ground, Says He Won’t Negotiate on Horizon
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto dug in his heels Thursday morning and said he won’t negotiate on a bill that would restructure the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, as part of a broader deal on the state budget.
Christian Hetrick, Observer Read more

As Shutdown Deadline Looms, Some NJ Senators Vow to Vote No on Budget
Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said that the state Senate would not vote on the state budget on Thursday, pushing New Jersey one day closer to the June 30 deadline to avoid a partial shutdown of government services.
Alyana Alfaro, Observer Read more

N.J. Senate passes Horizon bill that’s at center of budget war
The state Senate Thursday voted to allow the next governor to control the surplus level for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, under a deal struck with Gov. Chris Christie, who wants to punish the state’s largest health insurance company for refusing to contribute to a public health fund.
Susan K. Livio, NJ.com Read more

Here’s where N.J. Democrats are getting the money for all that extra school aid
So how will New Jersey pay for the extra aid Senate Democrats have promised to New Jersey schools in their proposed budget?
Samantha Marcus, NJ.com Read more

Coming to Terms With NJ’s Fiscal Challenges
From a huge unfunded obligation to retired employees to the lack of a substantial rainy-day account in the annual budget, a new report on New Jersey’s renowned fiscal challenges lays out in stark detail just how strained the state’s finances will be when a new governor and Legislature are sworn into office early next year.
John Reitmeyer, NJSpotlight Read more

Doctors raked in cash to push fentanyl as N.J. death rate exploded
The most powerful opioid ever mass-marketed was designed to ease cancer patients into death.
It’s ideal for that: the drug is fast acting, powerful enough to tame pain that other opioids can’t and comes in a variety of easy delivery methods — from patches to lollipops.
Stephen Stirling and Erin Petenko, NJ.com Read more

Senate Panel Approves OPRA Overhaul
After a two-year effort led by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted to release two bills that would update and expand New Jersey’s transparency laws.
Alyana Alfaro, Observer Read more

Transgender student bill passes, heads to Christie’s desk
A proposal that would provide key protections for transgender students in public schools earned final approval from state lawmakers Thursday and now heads to Gov. Chris Christie for consideration.
NJ.com Read more

Small New Jersey airports say Trump visits hurt business
Some small private airports in New Jersey say the flight restrictions that accompany President Donald Trump’s visits to his Bedminster golf club are putting a damper on their businesses.
Associated Press Read more

Report: Toms River, Middletown among safest places to raise a child
A recent report named two Shore towns as among the 30 safest places to raise a child.
Hartriono B. Sastrowardoyo, Asbury Park Press Read more

Q&A With Former President of State Board of Education
When Mark Biedron was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to the state Board of Education in 2011, he admitted to being naïve about the workings of New Jersey public education. But the businessman and founder of a private school in Somerset County got a crash course in how public schools operate in his home state.
John Mooney, NJSpotlight Read more

Islamic group calls for Prospect Park official to step down after ‘Sharia law’ remark
A major advocacy group is calling for the resignation of a Board of Education member in Prospect Park after she made a remark about “Sharia law” at a meeting Tuesday night.
Katie Sobko, The Record Read more

Lakewood welfare fraud: What we know so far
Seven Lakewood couples were arrested this week on charges related to a multi-million dollar welfare fraud scheme.
Asbury Park Press Read more

Republican Assembly Candidate Drops Out and Switches Parties
Republican Assembly candidate Matt Seymour announced on Thursday that he is withdrawing from the legislative race in his Bergen County district, changing his party affiliation to Democrat, supporting Democrats in the district and backing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy for election to the New Jersey governorship.
Alyana Alfaro, Observer Read more

Freeholder: Corrections officers watched Netflix, porn
A “handful” of Ocean County corrections officers face discipline after a “sting operation” revealed they watched Netflix, sports and pornography on government computers while they were supposed to be working, officials said.
Erik Larsen, Asbury Park Press Read more

Passaic housing whistleblower fired, plans appeal
A longtime city employee who sued the housing authority twice in recent years says she was wrongfully terminated this week because she blew the whistle regarding department violations.
Tony Gicas, The Record Read more

Monmouth County first assistant prosecutor confirmed as judge
Monmouth County First Assistant Prosecutor Marc C. LeMieux will have a new job as a Superior Court judge.
Andrew Ford, Asbury Park Press Read more

BOE wrongfully approves ballot question
The board of education approved placing a question concerning the construction of a $7.5 million administration building on the November ballot illegally and against their attorney’s advice.
Kristie Cattafi, The Record Read more

Morris County ID card void filled by sheriff, human services team
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, in cooperation with the county Human Services director, has started a new county identification card program that targets the at-risk community and homeless people who may lack other valid forms of identification.
Peggy Wright, Daily Record Read more