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Senate approves Atlantic City takeover bill

Friday, March 18, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 03/18/2016

The state Senate approved a state takeover of Atlantic City on Monday, leaving the resort’s future of in the hands of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. The Senate passed a bill that would give the state sweeping power over the city’s finances for five years, allowing the Local Finance Board director to sell city assets, eliminate city departments and terminate collective bargaining agreements, among other powers. The city has about $400 million in total debt and is just weeks away from running out of cash. But Prieto, D-Bergen, Hudson, is still against the takeover bill in its current form. He told a ballroom full of police officers last week that the bill won’t be voted on in the Assembly until it’s amended to protect labor contracts made with the city’s public-safety workers. Before the Senate passed the takeover, Atlantic City was already looking ahead to the Assembly. Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Council President Marty Small and Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, along with local union leaders and activists, were in Trenton lobbying Assembly members to vote against the takeover bill.

Meanwhile, Guardian, Small and Shabazz said City Council will consider putting Bader Field up for auction at its Wednesday meeting. A minimum bid would be set at $150 million, and all money from the sale would be dedicated toward paying down the city’s debt, Guardian said. Council will also vote on dissolving the Municipal Utilities Authority, which provides Atlantic City’s drinking water, at that meeting. The takeover bill would allow the state to sell both assets. For the fourth time, the Senate approved a financial rescue package for the city. The bill ends expensive casino tax appeals that wrecked the city’s finances over the years by allowing casinos to make payments in lieu of property taxes. The bill also redirects casino tax funds to the help the city pay down debt and other expenses. Those funds would be held by the state until it approved a financial plan submitted by the city. Christie twice rejected a similar bill, which left a $33.5 million hole in the city’s 2015 budget and put the at risk of running out of cash by next month. Moody’s Investor Services said last week if the takeover and PILOT bills are not implemented, Atlantic City could default or file for bankruptcy.

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