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Atlantic City will fight if Christie orders state takeover

Thursday, October 27, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 10/27/16

Don't expect Atlantic City officials to quit fighting if the state decides next week to take over the financially struggling gambling resort. Local leaders said Wednesday they will appeal in court if Gov. Chris Christie's administration rejects their five-year financial plan and opts instate for a takeover of the city's government. The state Department of Community Affairs has until Tuesday to decide whether to accept the city's proposal or approve the takeover. "We see this plan as being successful next week," Mayor Don Guardian said after outlining the proposal before the state Assembly's judiciary committee.

One fear among city leaders is that the state has already decided on a takeover. Tammori Petty, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs, said Monday that the state "emphatically and categorically" denies that implication. Petty said Wednesday the city would appeal to the appellate division of state Superior Court. The city's plan, unveiled Monday, calls for 100 job cuts, early-retirement for some employees, a tax settlement with casinos, and a plan to sell the former Bader Field airport site to the city's municipal utilities authority for $110 million, among other cost-saving measures.

Guardian and other local leaders delivered the 120-page plan to the state Tuesday and presented it to the Assembly panel Wednesday morning.  No members of the committee, nor any other state lawmakers, have any official say in the matter. It's purely up to Christie's administration. But a number of legislators said they were impressed with the plan and encouraged the state to consider it.

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), the panel's chairman, said one concern is that the state — and taxpayers — would be saddled with covering the $100 million city budget deficit if a takeover happens.  Still, there were two significant concerns among lawmakers Wednesday. One was the city's proposal to settle the $150 million it owes to the Borgata casino in tax appeals for $103 million. Borgata, the city's biggest taxpayer, said in a statement Tuesday that the casino "has not agreed to accept any offer to settle its tax refund judgments and pending tax appeals." But local leaders said the casino simply wants to make sure the state approves the city's five-year plan.

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