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New Jersey Government Going Back to Work

LYNN NEARY, host:

New Jersey's governor and legislative leaders have reached a budget deal that will end a six-day government shutdown.

More than 80,000 state employees were out of work when government offices, beaches, even casinos were closed. What made the impasse unique was that the key players are all from the same party.

From member station WBGO, Terry Sheridan reports.

TERRY SHERIDAN reporting:

It was pretty quiet in Atlantic City these past couple of days.

Mr. BOB MCDEVITT (President, Unite Here Local 54): Well, it's like Atlantic City before there gambling, when I was a kid. There was no reason for this. And it's the ego of the Democratic Assembly leadership that has brought us to this point.

Mr. SHERIDAN: Bob McDevitt is president of Local 54 of Unite Here, the union that represents casino workers. The casinos closed because state monitors were furloughed. He led a rally of both state employees and casino workers outside the State House yesterday, urging State Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, a Democrat, to reach a deal with Governor John Corzine, also a Democrat.

By late afternoon, they did. Governor Corzine.

Governor JOHN CORZINE (Democrat, New Jersey): While we are understandably encouraged by this agreement, this is not a time for celebration or elation. Far too many people's lives have been disrupted economically and emotionally, workers' wages have been lost, businesses' revenues diminished, and basic public services interrupted.

Mr. SHERIDAN: The sticking point was the governor's insistence on a one percent increase in the state sales tax, from six to seven percent, to help close a $4.5 billion budget gap. Roberts had rejected that, saying he couldn't support a budget that didn't address property tax relief.

So in a compromise proposed by State Senate President Richard Cody, also a Democrat, Corzine and Roberts agreed that one-half of the one percent increase will go to close the budget gap, and the other half will go to property tax relief. That provided a solution to Assembly Speaker Roberts, who was blamed by Corzine for not bringing a budget to the assembly floor.

Assemblyman JOSEPH ROBERTS (New Jersey State Assembly Speaker): I am relieved that the suffering and hardship experienced by so many New Jersey families and workers can come to an end, and I am gratified that property taxpayers will be among the big beneficiaries of the resolution of this budget impasse.

Mr. SHERIDAN: Now both houses of the legislature are going through the mechanics of getting the budget onto Governor Corzine's desk to sign. That should happen sometime today, and once the Governor signs it, the state can return to normal.

For NPR News, I'm Terry Sheridan, in Trenton, New Jersey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Terry Sheridan