Back in November 2016, former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian handed the keys to the city’s financial kingdom to the state.
Or, to put it another way, the state took the keys from Guardian in the same way a parent would take car keys away from a child who ran the family sedan into a light post.
The move was approved by Gov. Christ Christie and intended to pull the city out of its financial woes after Guardian and his council put together a less-than-adequate budget.
Now, nearly 18 months later, there’s a new governor and new mayor. And talk of the state’s takeover of AC’s finances is undergoing significant changes.
A reduced role for NJ in Atlantic City?
This past week, the Press of Atlantic City reported that Gov. Phil Murphy and Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr.
The two men inherited their respective sides of the AC takeover. Those watching AC’s finances were no doubt interested in seeing how the pair would manage it.
Murphy told the PoAC that he’s not a fan of the heavy-handed approach the previous administration took when it swept in to fix the city’s budget and financial troubles.
Here’s what the governor-elect was quoted as saying:
“I was never a fan of the over-the-top big footing; I want to think much more in the sense of a partnership, and we will be a partner.”
Gilliam seemed to corroborate the sentiment when he said he sees a more bilateral approach to the takeover.
“Most folks think that it’s going to be a drastic overhauling in terms of the governor and the state just leaving. I don’t think that’s going to be the case.” Gilliam Jr. said.
Borgata settlement, development highlight state’s takeover
Atlantic City was facing a poor credit rating (CCC) and a major tax debt owed to Borgata Hotel Casino. Borgata’s record showed the state owed them more than $165 million. However, the state’s financial team was able to negotiate that amount down to $72 million early in 2017.
“This settlement has been one of my administration’s priorities since Atlantic City’s fiscal crisis forced us to assume control of operations there in November with a plan to stabilize property taxes and return the city to a sound financial footing,” Gov. Chis Christie said at the time. “The city administration, despite all the time and opportunity given to them, failed to accomplish this goal as they have with so many others.”
Many considered the victory an exclamation point on the young takeover, and Christie certainly was not shy in emphasizing the failures of the city leaders.
Less than 60 days later, S&P Global Ratings upgraded the city’s credit rating from CCC to CC, adding yet another victory for the city via the state’s takeover.
Couple those early successes with the city’s development boom — two new casinos are opening this summer — one would be hard-pressed to argue against the fact that the takeover has been a success, let alone an impressive one.