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Dems try to broker behind-the-scenes peace on Atlantic City rescue

Friday, April 8, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 04/08/2016

The Assembly's Democratic leaders, Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) held a three-hour private caucus meeting with their members on Thursday afternoon to air differences and discuss the possibility of a deal as Atlantic City prepares to run out of money within weeks. So far, Greenwald said, no dice. "There continues to be discussion," he told NJ Advance Media on Thursday night. "We in South Jersey remain wide open to a compromise. We'd like to be at a table to structure the deal." A state Assembly committee approved a new plan from state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto that defies Gov. Chris Christie's push for the state to take over Atlantic City. Experts say municipalities across the state could see their credit ratings drop if Atlantic City, New Jersey's only gambling resort, defaults on debt or is forced to file for bankruptcy.  But Assembly Prieto has been battling with Christie over legislation supported by the Republican governor and passed by the state Senate that would allow the state to take over large parts of the city's government. Instead, he unveiled an alternative rescue bill Thursday that gives the city two years to reach benchmarks before a takeover kicks in. The Assembly's judiciary committee unanimously approved it Thursday.

Christie on Thursday dismissed the new measure as a "completely ineffective solution" and vowed not to sign it if it reaches his desk. He repeated that he will agree to give aid to Atlantic City only with the takeover bill in place, without any changes. Earlier in the day, Greenwald sent a letter to Prieto asking him to allow a vote on the takeover bill at Thursday afternoon's public Assembly session, saying it has the votes to pass. Prieto denies it does and did not post the measure. Tom Hester, a spokesman for Prieto, said the Assembly will vote on the speaker's new bill maybe as early as Monday. Greenwald also voiced concern early in the day that Prieto wasn't discussing the issue with the Assembly's South Jersey delegation. They apparently aimed to clear that up in the afternoon caucus meeting. Should a deal be reached, the question now is if Christie would consider softening his position that the takeover bill — which he ironed out with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney — is the only solution he'll support.

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