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Big Gamble: Lawmakers Give Atlantic City 5 Months to Get Finances Under Control

Friday, May 27, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 05/27/16

State lawmakers sent Christie two bills yesterday aimed at helping the resort through significant fiscal problems that have brought the city to the verge of bankruptcy, providing a bridge loan and other financial help. But the rescue legislation also sets a 150-day deadline for the local government to draft a balanced budget for 2017, and to establish a five-year plan to stabilize its finances. If it can’t, the Christie administration would then be able to come in and assume control, with the power to rip up current labor deals and spin off city assets. The rescue legislation also gives Christie, through the state’s Local Finance Board, the ability to judge the soundness of the fiscal plans the local government offers. His administration or that of his successor would also have the power to step in and take over the city if it determines the local government isn’t living up to its promises over a period of five years.

Christie -- who previously pushed for an immediate takeover -- said during the radio show that the new rescue legislation would still give him “all of the authority that I would need” to fix the city’s finances if local officials can’t do the job themselves. Lawmakers, meanwhile, also praised the final passage of an Atlantic City rescue package that at one point appeared to be in danger of never coming together thanks to bitter political disagreements. On one side was Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who like Christie initially preferred legislation authorizing an immediate state takeover. On the other side was Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-Hudson), who wanted to give the city up to two years to resolve its problems. Prieto also couched his opposition to an immediate takeover as an effort to protect the civil rights of city residents and the collective-bargaining rights of its workers.

After both bills cleared the Senate yesterday afternoon, Sweeney said he was ready to move on. “I’m glad this is done,” he said. Prieto also looked to the future while speaking about the bills after they cleared the Assembly. “This is something that now the administration of Atlantic City can roll up their sleeves with their workforce, and I think we’re giving them an opportunity to again be the jewel of New Jersey,” he said. Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Council President Marty Small were also in the State House yesterday to show their support for the compromise legislation, with Guardian saying he’s now ready to get to work. He also offered a last-minute plug to those looking for something do over Memorial Day weekend.


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