Governor Chris Christie finally acted on a package of bills that were intended to help Atlantic City rebound from recent financial struggles. Unfortunately, it was not the answer that anyone had hoped for.
Gov. Christie vetoed the majority of the bills that have been sitting on his desk since June, leaving tens of thousands of Atlantic City workers and many businesses wondering what his end game is in helping the city recover.
Christie believed bills only answered short term ills
The majority of the package that has been sitting on Governor Christie’s desk since June was vetoed earlier this week according to an article from the Associated Press. One of the primary bills in the package would have let the eight remaining Atlantic City casinos make payments to the city in lieu of taxes over the next 15 years. This would give them a set amount each year to pay instead of an unknown amount that could go up each year.
Christie stated that, “While I commend the Legislature for attempting to devise measures to stabilize the city’s budget and finances, I am concerned that the bills, in their present form, fail to recognize the true path to economic revitalization and fiscal stability in the city.”
“While these bills represent the bipartisan efforts of many to provide important, near-term support to the city’s immediate challenges, I do not believe they meet the goal of setting a course toward renewed, long-term prosperity and economic growth. To achieve these goals, we must continue our work and go further to ensure that the next step leads to that economically vibrant future for Atlantic City.”
Another feature of the package included a bill that would have provided mandated employee benefits for casino employees. This became a key issue last year after the Trump Taj Mahal was allowed to terminate their contract with union employees and cut health and retirement benefits. The union appealed the ruling and is still awaiting a ruling by an appeals court.
The only bill that Christie signed was one that approved additional aid for schools in Atlantic City. Other features that were vetoed included a measure that would have disbanded the Atlantic City Alliance and used its $30 million annual budget to help the city in other ways.
Senate President blasts Christie for delay
State Senate President Steve Sweeney wasted little time blasting Gov. Christie for dragging his heels on the issue. He started by saying that lawmakers would take “immediate, constructive action” to resolve issues related to the bill.
He followed those statements by showing his annoyance at the Governor. “I am extremely disappointed in the governor’s failure to enact the package of bills to aid Atlantic City’s financial recovery and I am concerned by the time that was wasted since the plan was put on his desk close to six months ago.”
“Critical time has been lost to Atlantic City and to south Jersey’s economy, leaving tens of thousands of people in continued financial peril.”
Ironically, some of the parts of the five-bill package came from summits held by the Governor following the closure of four AC casinos in 2014. The tax payment bill was viewed as a way to stabilize certain casinos’ finances and prevent annual tax appeals. These appeals were usually won by the casinos and caused gaps in the city’s budget over the last few years.
Christie wants to hold $30 million in casino tax payments
After vetoing four out of the five bills in the package, Gov. Christie recommended that the state hold $30 million in casino tax payments from 2015 and 2016 until a fiscal recovery plan has been passed into law. Afterwards, the funds would be released to Atlantic City.
It is unclear why Christie proposed this set amount or to his end game in Atlantic City’s recovery. Christie is presently concentrating on his run for President but it appears that his chances at receiving the Republican nomination are slipping with each passing week.
Christie’s failure to act over the last few months makes some wonder about his commitment to save Atlantic City. Most of the bills appeared reasonable and provided solutions for the next few years at least. Failure to provide some type of package in the near future could prove detrimental to recovery.
Image credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com