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Atlantic City buys itself some time to negotiate state rescue

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

There won't be a government shutdown in Atlantic City on Friday after all. The city council voted 9-0 on Wednesday night to avert having to temporarily close city hall by lengthening the payroll schedule for municipal employees from 14 to 28 days. Mayor Don Guardian announced last month that New Jersey's only gambling resort was set to run out of money Friday and that non-essential services would have to cease for three weeks, until new tax revenue came in May 2. Police officers, firefighters, and garbage collectors had agreed to work for IOUs during that time. But all nine of the unions that represents city workers agreed to stretch the payroll. Guardian's office calls it a "temporary fix." But, the mayor said, it buys a little more time to negotiate with state officials on a plan to rescue the city from financial catastrophe.

Gov. Chris Christie dismissed the city's payroll move Wednesday, calling it a "kick the can down the road" approach. He said even with the move, the city will still run out of funds by mid-May and default on its debt without state intervention. State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto on Wednesday introduced a bill designed as an alternative to legislation being pushed by Gov. Chris Christie that would allow the state to take over Atlantic City. Experts say if the city defaults on its debt or is forced to declare bankruptcy, it will hurt the credit rating of municipalities across New Jersey. State and local officials have been bickering for weeks over how to save Atlantic City, which has seen four casinos close in recent years, slashing its tax base by 70 percent. Christie said he will sign an aid package only if the state Legislature passes a law allowing the state to take over large parts of the city's local government. Prieto introduced a rival rescue bill Wednesday that he says is more fair to the city and its workers. The Assembly's judiciary committee will consider it Thursday.

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