New Jersey lawmakers reach deal to end budget standoff

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (REUTERS) - New Jersey lawmakers said on Monday (July 3) they had reached a budget deal to end a partial government shutdown that became a black eye for Governor Chris Christie after he was spotted lounging on a beach that had been closed to the public during the holiday weekend.

The legislation would likely be approved on Monday night and signed into law by Christie in time to reopen state parks and beaches for the Independence Day holiday on Tuesday.

"None of this was easy," New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney told reporters at a news conference. "I think this is a good day because everything will be open, probably starting tomorrow."

Christie became the subject of widespread mockery and derision after a New Jersey newspaper captured photos of the Republican governor and his family sunbathing on a beach that had been closed to the public over the holiday weekend due to the budget standoff.

The saga, dubbed "beachgate" by some media outlets, threw a spotlight on stalled budget negotiations that have caused partial government shutdowns in New Jersey and in Maine, and led to the suspension of many nonessential services.

That included New Jersey's state parks, which closed on Saturday, forcing many to alter their holiday weekend plans. More than 30,000 state workers were on furlough on Monday.

In Maine, the state police, parks and offices responsible for collecting revenue all planned to work through the shutdown, the state's first since 1991. But the majority of its 12,000 state employees will be furloughed.

Members of Maine's State Employees Association rallied outside the State House to demand a budget deal from lawmakers and Republican Governor Paul LePage.

"Governor LePage won't answer his door - we want to work!" organisers posted on Twitter, with photos and videos of dozens of the association's members holding placards and chanting.

A spokesman for Christie, a former Republican presidential candidate who is in the last year of his final term, said he had been on the beach in front of the governor's residence for only 45 minutes.

On Monday, Christie noted that 190km of the state's 210km of beaches were open, and that it was "another beautiful day" at the Jersey shore. "Come and enjoy them - but use sunscreen and hydrate!" he wrote on Twitter.