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New Jersey Starts Holiday Weekend With A Government Shutdown

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There may be a budget crisis in New Jersey, but Governor Chris Christie managed to create a silver lining for himself. There's a government shutdown in the state. And as part of that, state beaches in New Jersey were closed this weekend. At Island Beach State Park, no one was allowed to soak in the sun on the sand. But photos show the governor soaking in the sun on the sand on that closed beach. Here's Joe Hernandez from WHYY.

JOE HERNANDEZ, BYLINE: Eleven states failed to pass a new fiscal year budget by last Friday's deadline. In New Jersey, that led to a government shutdown. State workers were furloughed. Motor vehicle agencies shut their doors. Even tourists hoping to visit the Statue of Liberty from New Jersey were turned away.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Due to the state government shutdown, Liberty State Park is closed to the public beginning July 1 until the state budget passes.

HERNANDEZ: Perhaps the gravest sin in the eyes of shore-loving New Jerseyans was the closure of public beaches. That meant no funnel cake, no suntans, no weekend getaway from the suburbs. But what made it even worse was that Republican Governor Chris Christie, who ordered the state government shutdown, spent his weekend on one of the very beaches closed to the public. His family was staying at the summer beach house provided by the state in Island Beach State Park. Christie flew back and forth from Trenton on the state's dime.

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CHRIS CHRISTIE: Yes, I traveled there, and I traveled back. And I'll travel back again by helicopter, yeah.

HERNANDEZ: The trip really roused the public's anger on Sunday, after NJ Advance Media, which owns the Newark Star-Ledger, published photos it had taken by flying a small plane over the coastal getaway. The photo showed Christie in sandals, shorts, a T-shirt and a baseball cap, lounging on the beach surrounded by family members but no other members of the public. The unfortunate optics happened at a time when Christie's approval ratings have slipped to 15 percent.

The reason for the shutdown is a fight between Christie and Democratic state assembly speaker Vinny (ph) Prieto. Christie wants to use surplus money from the state's largest health insurer to fund his anti-addiction efforts, which Christie has made the hallmark of his final year in office. But Prieto opposes the move.

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VINCENT PRIETO: I'm for good public policy, and I will not be bullied into doing something that is not good for the residents of the state of New Jersey.

HERNANDEZ: Christie is calling another joint session of the state Legislature today to try to work out a compromise. Earlier in the weekend, when asked if taking the beach trip with his family was fair, Christie said, quote, "run for governor, and you can have a residence there." For NPR News, I'm Joe Hernandez.

(SOUNDBITE OF CITY OF THE SUN'S "SUGAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.