New Jersey Government Shutdown Continues on First Workday

New Jersey's courts did not open Monday and the same could happen to betting at race tracks and the Atlantic City casinos under a state government shutdown that began after the Legislature failed to adopt a budget. By Wednesday, state parks and beaches could also be closed.

More than half the state work force was off the job and those who were working might not get paid.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine imposed the shutdown after lawmakers missed a July 1 deadline to adopt a new state budget. The impasse among Democrats over a sale tax increase left New Jersey with no means to spend money, and a private four-hour meeting Sunday between the governor and top Assembly and Senate leaders ended without a compromise.

The Senate planned to meet Monday, and Senate President Richard J. Codey told senators to be ready to stay in session until a budget is adopted. But no Assembly meetings were scheduled.

"I would welcome the Assembly actually coming in, staying in Trenton, working on the budget, hour after hour, 24 hours a day until we come up with a budget," Corzine said Monday morning on CNN. "I can't veto a budget, I can't sign a budget until it's actually presented by the Legislature."

Road construction and lottery sales were among the first casualties of the shutdown.

Race tracks and casinos, which require state monitoring, will be closed Wednesday if no budget is enacted by then. State parks, beaches and historic sites will close their gates on Wednesday.

If the shutdown drags on, Corzine said, services funded with state aid, such as prescription drug assistance and hospitals, will also be hit.

A state appellate panel on Sunday ordered horse tracks closed at the end of business Tuesday. The horse racing industry said it would appeal if the budget impasse is not resolved.

The casinos are also waging a court battle to remain open. The head of the Casino Control Commission told Atlantic City's 12 casinos to lock up at 8 a.m. Wednesday. An appeals court panel on Monday denied the casinos' request to stay open while the appeals continue, but casino lawyers were expected to appeal.

If casinos are forced to shut down Wednesday, the state stands to loose roughly $1.3 million a day in revenue earmarked to help senior citizens and people with disabilities, said Daniel Heneghan, spokesman for the state Casino Control Commission.

About 45,000 state employees are on furlough in the meantime, with only personnel deemed essential, including state police, prison guards, child welfare workers, and some administration staff still working.

Budget talks became heated this year as Corzine proposed increasing the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to help overcome a $4.5 billion (euro3.54 billion) budget deficit. The proposal would cost the average New Jersey family $275 (euro216) per year, according to experts.

Most Democrats in the Assembly and several Senate Democrats oppose the sales tax increase, fearing voter backlash and preferring to reserve any tax increase for property tax changes. Assembly Democrats proposed a series of alternatives, some of which Corzine accepted, but both sides remained $1 billion (euro790 million) apart as the budget deadline passed.

Corzine's order allows him to keep 36,000 state employees working without pay. But it is unclear whether state workers — those ordered to work and those furloughed — will be paid.