Frustration hits customers of MVC agencies across the state amid N.J. gov shutdown Top News

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Frustration hits customers of MVC agencies across the state amid N.J. gov shutdown Top News

Confusion and frustration hit Motor Vehicle Commissions across New Jersey following an early morning government shutdown from the state budget impasse.

At midnight on Friday, Gov. Chris Christie ordered the closure of all non-essential organizations after the state Legislature failed to pass a budget by the July 1 deadline. MVC agencies and state parks were among the shuttered services. 

Those looking to register cars, renew licenses and return plates were locked out of offices and registration stations in towns around the state. 

In Edison, “closed” signs were posted on the MVC agency’s glass doors with a photo of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) that read “This Facility is CLOSED Because of this Man” along with the speaker’s office phone number beneath the text. A handful of people surrounded the posters snapping photos on cellphones. 

The state shut down after Prieto declined to put a bill to vote in the Assembly that would have let New Jersey use Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey reserves to fund addiction treatment.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) refuses to pass a budget in the Senate unless the Assembly passes the Horizon bill– one similar to a bill Prieto co-sponsored in 2006. 

“How are we supposed to function?” asked Edison resident Claudia Charles. “We should be able to depend on this place opening up when we need it.”

Charles woke up early Saturday to renew her expired driver’s license, but was immediately confused by the closed signs and unusually empty parking lot. No MVC staff members were on scene to explain why the building was unopened. 

The 52-year-old says she is worried about being pulled over by police with her license not updated.

Irritated and puzzled, Charles added: “This was a mishap with the government, but what about the people? It’s affecting the people.”

And it wasn’t only individuals affected. Hishm Mafarja, an employee for small trucking company Jerusalem Express, said he cannot register three vehicles he needs for work due to the agency’s closure. The paperwork, he said, is due Monday.

The state Legislature was scheduled for an emergency session Saturday morning to try to resolve the standoff, but it remains unclear when the government will reopen. 

“Now I have to wait,” Mafarja said. 

Those who drove to the agency were unaware of the shutdown and wished the state had better publicized it leading up to Saturday.

“I didn’t even know this was happening,” said 28-year-old Edison resident Dariana Cortez.

Friday evening, Christie held a press conference demanding the state Legislature send him a budget and placing blame on Prieto.

Sweeney and Christie cut a deal late June, agreeing to pass a $34.7 billion Democratic spending plan if the state Legislature sends Christie two pieces of legislation, including the controversial Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield bill. 

At least one scorned driver, Michael Dimare of Edison, backed Christie and said the shut down would be “worth it” if the governor’s spending plan passes. 

“I just really hope the government spending goes down at the end of this,” he said. “Then it would be worth it.”

Avalon Zoppo may be reached at azoppo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AvalonZoppo. Find NJ.com on Facebook

Frustration hits customers of MVC agencies across the state amid N.J. gov shutdown Top News

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Frustration hits customers of MVC agencies across the state amid N.J. gov shutdown Top News

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