Gov. Christie Announces “Partnership” — Not State Takeover — in Atlantic City
Call it a state takeover. Call it a “partnership.” Call it … well, “You can call it what you want to call it,” in the words of Gov. Chris Christie.
Either way, the state government of New Jersey is set to move gain more control over Atlantic City’s finances. Christie, flanked by N.J. Senate president Steve Sweeney and Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian, announced today at a press conference that legislation will be forthcoming on the issue.
Atlantic City will finally get its PILOT bill, which gives the city more predictable payments from the city’s casinos and which Christie let die last week, while the state will get the power to terminate local union collective bargaining agreements, privatize utilities and other financial powers over the financially troubled casino resort town.
“Atlantic City’s finances are now the greatest threat to the city’s well-being,” Christie said at the press conference announcing the “partnership” this afternoon. “The urgency of the city’s current financial predicament cannot be overstated.”
Sweeney said a takeover bill already in the legislature will be amended with the PILOT program and other state aid to the city.
“We’re certainly against the takeover,” said Guardian, a Republican like Christie. “But the reality … is the deficit does not go away. We do need the force that the state brings with it to help us restructure our debt. In turn, we get to where we need to be, which is stabilizing the government in Atlantic City.”
The state will have its new “partnership” role in Atlantic City for five years, not 15, Sweeney said. Earlier today, Atlantic City bars were offering dollar shots of Fireball whiskey to anyone who opposed the state takeover.
The partnership bills are expected to be passed sometime in February. Earlier, Christie said Guardian didn’t have the “guts” to do his job. “We’re working together,” Christie said today. “It’s a beautiful thing. I think he called it kumbaya.”
The news of the latest state intervention in Atlantic City came the same day, coincidentally, the Washington Post wrote a long, front-page feature on Christie’s previous failed state interventions in the city.
“I think what happens is we look at all of the options,” Guardian said. “We have four options. We can do nothing, have the state takeover, file bankruptcy or form a partnership. It’s not hard to figure out what you want to do and what’s best for Atlantic City and New Jersey. We like being a cash cow. We like being an ATM for the state. We want to get back to that.”
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