Both Senate President Steve Sweeney and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian were disappointed to learn of Gov. Chris Christie’s pocket vetoes Tuesday on a package of bills aimed at assisting the city in its economic recovery efforts.The package, which included a bill that would allow casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes in order to help pay down the city’s debt, was conditionally vetoed back in November after it sat dormant on Christie’s desk for over four months.
Though the Legislature approved Christie’s changes and sent the bills back to him earlier this month, the governor declined to take action, allowing them to die.
Following a report issued last week by Atlantic City’s Christie-appointed emergency manager that warned of the city running out of funds by April on its current course, Guardian now says that Christie’s vetoes have pushed the city closer to declaring bankruptcy.
In a statement Wednesday, Sweeney (D-West Deptford), who has proposed a state takeover of Atlantic City, said that state intervention is the “best way to bring the city’s finances under control.”
“Now, the mayor finally recognizes the severity of city’s problems, but his plan to declare bankruptcy is the worst possible outcome for Atlantic City and for the state of New Jersey,” Sweeney said. “He obviously doesn’t realize that he doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally declare bankruptcy because only the state is vested with that power. He also fails to understand that putting the city into bankruptcy would have disastrous results for the city and could jeopardize the financial standing of other cities in New Jersey, resulting in credit downgrades and higher costs. Bankruptcy could also have a terrible impact on local schools, undermining the ability to educate schoolchildren.”
“Clearly, Atlantic City has lost the ability to help itself,” Sweeney added. “The mayor’s talk of bankruptcy will only make conditions worse.”
Guardian, who is opposed to the idea of a state takeover, was in Trenton on Wednesday to meet with Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus), who also criticized Christie’s vetoing of the recovery legislation.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts defended the governor’s actions Wednesday afternoon.
“The Governor did not sign the PILOT legislation for one simple reason: Atlantic City government has been given over five years and two city administrations to deal with its structural budget issues and excessive spending. It has not,” Roberts said. “The governor is not going to ask the taxpayers to continue to be enablers in this waste and abuse. The speaker is well aware of these facts, as the governor has discussed it with him repeatedly. There is no mystery. It’s that simple.”