TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is calling for an end to the political gamesmanship over the future of Atlantic City.
Christie used a press conference in Trenton Thursday afternoon to, in effect, double down on his demand that the Assembly join the State Senate in approving a state takeover of the town, along with a bill that would provide financial help.
The Governor presented numbers that he suggests shows that, when it comes to Atlantic City, the math just doesn’t add up.
He insisted that passing a PILOT bill covering the city’s eight casinos might address a pending $100 million deficit for 2016, but it would create operating deficits of $20 million and more each year after that.
Without a five year state takeover, which he says he doesn’t personally want but believes is necessary, Atlantic City’s problems will not only drag on, but perhaps hurt credit ratings of other towns from Newark to Camden.
The Governor took Mayor Don Guardian to task for joining Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto in putting the interests of municipal unions ahead of the city.
“The only plan the mayor has come up with is cutting $25 million in spending and delaying his payroll for two weeks,” Christie said. “If he was the CEO of a company, the board would have fired him.”
There has been no comment from Guardian.
Prieto, in a statement, restated his interest in protecting collective bargaining agreements and wants to negotiate a deal.
Christie says those agreements are allowing Atlantic City employees to retire with large lump sums of unused vacation and sick pay amounting to more than $300,000 in some cases, and the city is saddled with a health care plan he considers lucrative and one the state abandoned more than 20 years ago.
The Governor suggested he’s willing to switch sides on a voter referendum that would allow for expansion of casino gaming to North Jersey, if the Assembly Speaker continues to hold up the two bills.
Christie, who now supports the expansion, says he would oppose it if the stalemate continues, believing voters would not be keen on allowing expansion of gambling if the one city that now hosts it goes under.
Prieto’s statement addressed the threat, saying: “As for North Jersey gaming, Governor Christie can campaign as he chooses. It wouldn’t be his first flip flop, and he would just be risking hurting Atlantic City by denying it funding it sorely needs from North Jersey gaming to transition into a resort.”