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NJ lawmakers reach budget deal to end state government shutdown

TRENTON, NJ — Lawmakers in New Jersey reached a budget deal Monday on the third day of a government shutdown and Republican Governor Chris Christie said he hopes to sign the bills tonight.

He shut down the state government Friday night after the state assembly and senate failed to pass a budget. Lawmakers were in a special session over the weekend to try and reach a deal and finally reached one Monday night.

“It’s the best budget we’ve seen in 10 years,” said Democratic Senate President Stephen  Sweeney.

Sweeney says Christie has agreed to the deal.

The shutdown forced the closure of tourist attractions and furloughed an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 state workers. All 40 state parks, recreational areas, historic sites, state beaches and Liberty State Park were closed just as the July Fourth holiday weekend got underway. Campers who stayed in parks Friday night were asked to leave Saturday morning.

But now that’s over. All state parks will be open Tuesday at normal times.

“We opened the state of New Jersey again,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

The budget stalemate centers on Christie’s desire for legislation to overhaul Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield as part of a deal to sign off on a $34.7 billion budget that includes a series of Democratic priorities.

Legislators have begun drafting a bill to overhaul the state’s largest health insurer to satisfy Christie.

Christie also said that he won’t sign a state budget unless it has a plan to dedicate lottery revenue to the state’s underfunded public workers’ pensions.

The state constitution requires a budget be enacted by July 1.