With the possibility of budget impasse triggering a government shutdown just before the July 4 weekend, a piece of legislation might put to rest any worries that tourists would be locked out of their favorite summertime state beaches and parks.
Under the proposal, Senate Bill 835, New Jersey’s state parks, forests and other natural and historic areas would be required to stay open in the event of a government shutdown. And that’s certainly looking to be a possibility, with Gov. Phil Murphy backing a $37.4 billion spending plan, along with $1.6 billion in revenue and taxes that have left some lawmakers seeing red.
The Democrat has seen opposition from different sides to either his tax increase, his lofty policy proposals, or his assumption on marijuana revenue. Lawmakers have until June 30 to strike a deal on the state budget.
SB835 cleared the Senate Environment and Energy committee by a 5-1 vote on May 21. A similar bill cleared the Assembly floor by a 67-0 vote in July 2017, but it never got a vote on the Senate floor.
In the event of a shutdown, the state parks couldn’t be open more than seven days, according to SB835. The 2017 shutdown went from July 1 to July 3, while one in 2006 lasted from July 8 to July 10.
In early May at a committee meeting, Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, dismissed the notion that there’d be a government shutdown.
“We are not going to shut the government down, as much as people would love to see Democrats in the legislature and the government shut government down,” Sarlo said.
In 2017, the three-day government shutdown under then-Gov. Chris Christie meant that some of New Jersey’s most heavily traveled tourist destinations were closed to the public.
Hardest hit was Island Beach State Park on Barnegat Peninsula, and the surrounding towns whose revenue depended on the influx of tourists during the extended July 4 weekend.
Reporters from NJ Advance Media took to the sky in a chartered airplane and famously photographed, Christie, his wife, children and friends sunbathing on the barren beach in front of his summer mansion.
The government reopened on July 3, but by then many beachgoers went elsewhere for their summertime fun, and those towns ultimately missed out on the weekend’s profits.