TRENTON – On the third day, the legislative war that prompted the state government shutdown ended.
Two guys who couldn’t stand being in the same room with each other, and apparently detested talking to each other, showed up like a pair of old chums, with the cast of the statehouse right on their heels ready to do their mutual bidding.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) moments ago appeared and announced a deal that would unlock the votes to make happen both a budget and the more modest restructuring of Horizon.
State Senator Joe Vitale (D-19) joined them.
Prieto’s assembly will pass the budget, Sweeney’s senate will pass the new Horizon bill, and then they will switch. Governor Chris Christie will sign it all, the senate president said.
“I can’t thank the speaker enough,” said Sweeney,. “Everyone will be able to enjoy their Fourth of July plans. In the end we have a budget we can be proud of.”
Prieto acknowledged that the state was in a crisis.
“For me it was about getting this budget passed,” Prieto said.
It was also about getting a Horizon bill he could back, and it took the two lawmakers’ discussions with Horizon chief Bob Marino to calm them down long enough to come to an agreement.
“What we did to get this done was to look at the Pa. model Horizon and I sat with them all day and have been working with them for three weeks,” the speaker said, referencing the details of a deal first reported by InsiderNJ. “We’re capping the reserves. Anything in excess goes back to the subscribers. This is very important.
“Anything in excess goes back to the subscribers,” Prieto added. “This is very important. Nothing is going to harm those 3.8 million residents. Subscribers will not see increasers. I did not want to move a bill that was not properly vetted. It’s a great day for the state of New Jersey. Now we have something that I can put my name on it.”
“We think the bill’s much better,” Sweeney said.
Christie will issue an order later tonight reopening the beaches and parks tomorrow.
Fireworks sounded over Trenton as lawmakers arrived, spilling into the hallway outside the committee room across from the senate chamber, to summon the votes for the budget and Horizon.