New Jersey averts government shutdown with last-minute budget

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy struck a last-minute budget deal on Saturday, ending threats of a government shutdown that had raged for weeks as he struggled to reach an accord with members of his own party.

FILE PHOTO: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks after taking the oath of office in Trenton, New Jersey, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

It was the state’s first budget deal in eight years with a Democrat at the helm, instead of Republican firebrand and one-time presidential hopeful Chris Christie.

Nonetheless, Murphy spent months disagreeing with the Democrat-run legislature over which taxes to hike and by how much.

Threats of a shutdown had raged for weeks. If the state government closed, state-run beaches and parks would have shuttered just before the July 4 holiday on Wednesday.

Thousands of state workers faced furlough - as happened last year when the state government shut down for only the second time in New Jersey history.

Last July, widespread derision followed a photo of Christie and his family lounging on a beach that had otherwise been closed to the public during the shutdown, which lasted three days.

Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald said the deal set New Jersey on a strong economic path for the next four years.

“We negotiated a budget that makes programs for children, families and seniors a priority. Our budget provides tax relief by restoring the Homestead Rebate, Earned Income Tax Credit and a Child Tax Credit,” Greenwald said in a statement.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin thanked Murphy and Senate President Stephen Sweeney for agreeing to “meet in the middle”.

“After much work, we have reached an agreement that meets our common priorities and turns the page on the last eight years,” Coughlin said in a statement.

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Dan Grebler

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