New Jersey State Employees Return to Work After Government Shutdown

For state employees in New Jersey, the weeklong, unexpected break is over.

State workers headed back to work Monday after a government shutdown temporarily halted most state services last week and closed Atlantic City's 12 casinos for three days.

The shutdown, spurred by a budget impasse between Gov. Jon S. Corzine and his fellow Democrats who control the state Legislature, ended Saturday morning after the Assembly and the Senate passed a compromise $30.8 billion spending plan that boosted the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.

The shutdown began after the state failed to have a balanced budget in place by July 1, as mandated by the state constitution. It forced the temporary layoffs of about 45,000 state workers, because the money to pay them had not been authorized by the Legislature.

Only state police and others considered essential to the health, safety and welfare of state residents were allowed to remain on the job.

Some 36,000 casino dealers, cocktail servers and slot machine attendants were forced off the job when gambling inspectors stopped working. The state also lost $1.3 million in daily tax revenue each day the casinos were closed.

On Saturday, Corzine issued an executive order ending the shutdown, and the casinos reopened soon thereafter. The state lottery resumed selling tickets and New Jersey's four horse racing tracks also went back into business.

State parks and beaches reopened to large crowds on Sunday, and state courts, motor vehicle commission offices and auto inspection stations resumed operations Monday morning.

In Cherry Hill, dozens of people were waiting to renew driver's licenses and car registrations at one motor vehicle commission office.

Jasper Frazier had been scheduled to take his road test for his driver's license last week when the offices were closed. The delay meant the Camden man had to spend a few extra days riding two buses each to his job at a retail store.

Dan Zeccola of Haddon Township had it a little easier: He had his license, but last week's closures forced him to wait to renew some important, expired paperwork.

"It made me drive with a registration that wasn't valid," Zeccola, 43, said of the shutdown.