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N.J. lawmakers reach compromise to save Atlantic City

Wednesday, May 25, 2016   (0 Comments)
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NJ.com 05/25/16

New Jersey lawmakers on Monday began advancing compromise legislation to help save Atlantic City from financial collapse, possibly ending months of bickering over how to keep the iconic seaside gambling resort from becoming the state's first municipality in eight decades to go bankrupt. Local officials say the agreement arrives at a crucial time: days before Memorial Day weekend kickstarts beach season across the Jersey Shore.  The deal amends a bill (S1711/A2569) pushed by Gov. Chris Christie and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) that would have authorized an immediate state takeover of the local government.

Instead, the new two-bill package would give the city 150 days — essentially through the fall — to formulate a plan to balance its municipal budget for five years. Otherwise, a takeover would be triggered. In addition, the state would give the city a loan to stay afloat over the next five months as it seeks to erase the more than $80 million deficit in its 2017 budget. The state Assembly's judiciary committee voted Monday to approve the agreement. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) — who spent weeks blocking Christie and Sweeney's takeover plan — said the deal gives the city "time to take care of its own house."

Sweeney said he expects the Republican governor to sign the package. But he also struck a more cautious tone than Prieto on Monday, saying he "not assuming anything" is done until the Assembly votes Thursday. "I want to see this end," Sweeney told NJ Advance Media. "I'm not happy that we wasted all this time. But we need to move on."  Mayor Don Guardian — who called the original takeover plan a "fascist dictatorship" — said the compromise is "very fair." Plus, he said, he hopes it will show potential visitors that Atlantic City is open for the summer. "It's up to us now to keep our sovereignty," Guardian said. "The hope of partnering with the state helping us but holding our feet to the fire is the way to move


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