Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a budget bill for his state, ending a partial government shutdown and opening up parks and beaches just in time for Independence Day festivities. The brief shutdown was capped by a scandal when Christie and his family were photographed using a beach that had been closed to the public.
On July 4, Christie signed a $34.7 billion budget to reopen the state government, ending an impasse between him and the state legislature, Reuters reports.
The legislation also included a measure calling for a reform of the state's Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Christie had wanted New Jersey's largest health insurance provider to provide $300 million in funding to help curb the state's opioid epidemic. When Horizon refused, Christie tied a provision to make the insurance company under closer state control to the legislature's budget bill, prompting a stalemate with the legislature on July 2 and an ensuing partial government shutdown.
"Everyone should be able to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday without having to be concerned by this," Christie said before signing the budget bill. "We can now move on to our business."
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The partial government shutdown closed down all New Jersey parks, nonessential state personnel and several of the state's beaches.
On July 2, a journalistic photographer took aerial pictures of the Island Beach State Park, which had been closed off to the public after the shutdown. The photographer spotted and took snapshots of Christie enjoying the beach with his family, NJ.com reports.
Later that day, Christie told reporters during a press conference, "I didn't get any sun today."
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When photographs of the governor lounging on the beach were published, Christie spokesman Brian Murray clarified, "He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on."
On July 3, Christie dismissed the political uproar surrounding the photographs.
"What a great bit of journalism by [NJ.com]," Christie told WNYW. "They actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with, his wife and children and their friends. I am sure they will get a Pulitzer for this one."
Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is running to succeed Christie in the state's November gubernatorial election, released a statement blasting his conduct.
"If I were governor, I sure wouldn't be sitting on the beach if taxpayers didn't have access to state beaches," Guadagno said, according to Politico.
On July 3, Christie defended his family's use of the Island Beach State Park during a press conference.
"I think I have proven over the last eight years that I don't really care about political optics," Christie said, reports ABC News. "I care about right and wrong. That's our residence, and we have a right to be there whenever we want to be there."
On June 14, a Quinnipiac University poll found that only 15 percent of registered voters in New Jersey approved of Christie's job performance while 81 percent disapproved. That net disapproval rating was the highest the polling group had recorded for a governor in more than 20 years, according to The Associated Press.