Families across the East Coast had their Fourth of July weekend plans ruined by a New Jersey government shutdown that closed state parks, beaches, and historical sites just as residents from the region were planning to head out on vacations. The state government shut down at midnight on Friday meaning many would-be vacationers headed to the state beaches only to be turned away (municipal parks and beaches remain open). One family whose plans were not affected? Governor Chris Christie’s, who were able to have a whole beach to themselves thanks to the shutdown.
Less than a day after Christie ordered all state parks and beaches closed, he headed to the Island Beach State Park on Saturday night. Christie took a State Police helicopter to the park on Saturday and did the same thing on Sunday. “That’s where my family is sleeping, so that’s where I’ll sleep tonight,” Christie told reporters on Sunday afternoon. “When I have a choice between sleeping with my family and sleeping alone, I generally like to sleep where my family is.”
But it wasn’t just about sleeping. Christie also got a chance to soak up some rays. NJ Advance Media managed to take aerial photos of Christie and his family enjoying the beach at the 10-mile barrier island. The photos were taken Sunday afternoon before Christie headed back to Trenton for a news conference.
At the news conference a reporter asked Christie if he got sun today. “I didn’t,” he replied. “I didn’t get any sun today.” His spokesman later tried to valiantly explain that lie when he was told about the aerial photographs: “Yes, the governor was on the beach briefly today talking to his wife and family before heading into the office. He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on.”
Christie justified the fact that his family could keep their planned vacations when so many other people had to cancel theirs, saying it was within his rights as governor. “That’s because the governor has a residence at Island Beach. Others don’t,” Christie said. “It’s just the way it goes. Run for governor and then you can have the residence.” Earlier, the governor had said there was no reason for his family to cancel the planned vacations since they would not use any of the “services” normally provided on the beach.
The shutdown, which is only the second in the state’s history, is the result of a conflict between Christie and Vincent Prieto, the speaker of the State Assembly. NJ Advance Media explains:
The standoff is over changes the governor wants that would make Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the state’s largest health insurance provider, more tightly controlled by the state and more transparent to the public. The Senate has passed a bill, but Prieto (D-Hudson) has refused to allow a vote on it.
Many members of the Assembly have abstained from voting on the state budget because Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has said he would veto Democratic priorities out of the budget if he is not sent the Horizon measure. That caused lawmakers to miss the July 1 deadline to pass a budget, sparking the shutdown.