to sum it up NJ has to come up w/ a state budget by the end of today..maybe tommorow the goverment is going to start shutting down. That included state road work, beaches, casinos, parks yada yada,..heres the story.
TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey lurched into a financial crisis as the midnight Friday deadline to adopt a new state budget expired with a dispute over the governor's plan to increase the sales tax still unresolved.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine was expected Saturday morning to order an unprecedented state government shutdown after an hour-long meeting Friday night between Corzine and top legislative officials ended without agreement and significant differences remaining.
"Over the last several days the administration has worked on contingency plans for the orderly shutdown of state government," Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said. "At this time, it looks like we may well be forced to implement those contingencies."
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden, who is leading opposition to Corzine's sales tax increase, had harsh words for Corzine, charging him with trying to "strong-arm a tax increase upon the citizens of this state."
"We've reached the crisis point, and all because the governor is more interested in imposing a shutdown instead of reaching an agreement that would make a sales tax increase unnecessary," Roberts said. "We consider this threat of a shutdown to be both unconscionable and indefensible."
Corzine chief of staff Tom Shea said Corzine wasn't to blame.
"It is an unfortunate and constitutional mandate resulting from the failure of the Legislature to pass a balanced budget," Shea said. "While the Assembly leadership is at the microphone grandstanding, the governor is sitting at his desk waiting for a budget."
Senate President Richard J. Codey headed home after the meeting with Corzine, which Coley described as "a frank discussion."
"We're working hard on a solution," said Codey, who supports Corzine's budget plan. "There's a lot of ideas, more ideas than Heinz has got pickles, and we're trying like the Dickens to find the ultimate solution."
The state Constitution requires a balanced budget by July 1, but the deadline has been missed four times in five years. Nothing happened when deadlines were missed before, but the state never went past the morning of July 2 without an adopted budget. Without one, the state has no authority to spend money.
This time, a shutdown loomed, leaving many to wonder what the coming days had in store for New Jersey and its 8.5 million residents.
"The public should be assured that we will do whatever is necessary over the holiday weekend and beyond, if necessary, to ensure the seamless continuity of essential government services and programs," Coley said.
The lottery and road construction would be among the first state services to close and parks and beaches taking several days to completely shut down.
Casinos, which require monitoring by state gambling regulators to operate, also might be forced to close, but it was not clear how soon that might happen.
The casinos lost a bid Friday in Superior Court to get state monitors declared "essential employees" who could keep working during a government shutdown.
Coley said Friday night that since the regulators are not considered "essential," casinos could be shut. "If the Legislature does not send the governor a budget, he will be forced to begin the orderly shutdown of state government; that would include casinos, unless the courts rule otherwise," Coley said.
Casino lawyers argued their case to an appeals court panel Friday night, but their request was denied on procedural grounds. The court said the casinos could ask for a new hearing once a shutdown was ordered, and casino association lawyer John Kearney said they intended to do so.
Joseph A. Corbo Jr., a vice president at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and head of the state casino association, said if casinos were forced to close for the holiday weekend, it would cost the state $10 million in tax revenue and casino workers about $3 million a day in wages and tips.
"We believe that it would be counterproductive for the state, which is in a budget crisis, to close businesses that generate millions of tax revenues, particularly since we directly pay for the state employees who regulate our casinos," Corbo said.
State Sen. Bill Gormley, R-Atlantic, met with Corzine's staff and said it was his impression casinos wouldn't immediately close if state services began shutting down.
"I think they're fine through the weekend, through the Fourth," Gormley said.
The state Casino Control Commission voted Friday to authorize "orderly closure" of the 12 casinos should Corzine order a government shutdown. Casino executives asked that they be given days rather than hours to prepare.
Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri said he would begin shutting road construction projects as soon as Corzine signed the order on Saturday. He said 128 projects would be suspended, including work on Route 18 and Interstate 78.
Leaders from state worker unions said the administration was already telling workers whether their job was considered essential. State Personnal Commissioner Rolando Torres advised state employees to check the state's official Web site -- State of New Jersey
-- for updated information.
Meanwhile, a Friday morning budget hearing led by Assembly Democrats opposed to Corzine's plan to boost the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent resulted in no apparent progress. The hearing with Treasurer Bradley Abelow recessed less than an hour after it started. Private talks throughout the day led to no agreement.
Abelow said the sides remained about $1 billion apart -- roughly the same amount that would be raised by a sales tax increase.
Corzine proposed the sales tax increase to help overcome a $4.5 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that starts Saturday. It's a key part of his $31 billion budget plan, and Corzine has threatened to veto any budget that doesn't include it.
Roberts has questioned the need for a sales tax increase, predicting voter backlash and demanding that any increase be reserved for property tax reform.
Codey, D-Essex, has tried to broker a compromise in which at least half the revenue from the sales tax hike would be used to relieve the state's highest-in-the-nation property taxes. Corzine has accepted that compromise, but Roberts has not.