ME governor and House speaker in standoff

New Jersey's shutdown is the result of a stalemate between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers, who are split over whether to include legislation affecting the state's largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, into the state budget, according to the Associated Press.

In his own $6.8 billion budget proposal, he proposed delaying the surtax for a year.

There is still a possibility of a last-second change in the budget to avoid a shutdown. On Friday, he once again accused legislators of waiting until the last minute to approve a budget and "trying to put a gun to the governor's head".

The failure to reach budget deals ahead of the beginning of the new fiscal year means state parks and beaches will be closed during one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year.

The new two-year, $7.1 billion deal brokered Thursday by the Democratic House speaker and Republican Senate president included compromised versions of what both sides have been seeking, but also some measures that could become sticking points.

On Saturday afternoon, Gideon announced that she was reconvening the six-member group charged with finalizing Maine's budget and invited LePage to formally present his new budget proposal at the State House. LePage said he will allow that to happen by withholding not only his signature from the budget but also his veto, leaving it stuck in political limbo for up to ten days. LePage said he wanted steeper tax cuts. "Speaker Gideon has not been willing to meet with the Governor since".

LePage, a Republican who rode the 2010 Tea Party wave into the governor's office, has pledged not to sign any budget from the Democrat-led Legislature that raises taxes in any way.

Republicans and Democrats in ME have scrapped over the budget for weeks, with much of the discord involving funding for education.

But, this was not enough for LePage and his minions in the House Republican caucus. "Under federal law, once having opted to participate in federal public assistance programs, the state is legally bound to comply with certain federal requirements, including the timely processing of applications and the timely provision of assistance to eligible persons". Bennett said that despite rhetoric blaming LePage for the shutdown, the governor has not even had a budget before him on his desk to sign. Expecting a budget standoff, he signed an executive order Friday directing state departments and agencies to take necessary steps for a state government shutdown.

"Not knowing how they're going to pay their mortgage, how they'll afford groceries, how they'll afford daycare, or when they'll come back to work", said Casale. Bureau of motor vehicle offices would close, while at least one courthouse would be open in each county. Other services remain in limbo, Casale said, while the governor decides which employees are essential and non-essential.

  • Eleanor Harrison