The plan, which Christie introduced with state Senate President
Steve Sweeney and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian by his side,
combines elements of previous plans to save the distressed gambling
The state already controls the city's budget, hiring and other
finances, but previous legislation Sweeney introduced this month
proposed a more complete takeover of operations.
Christie's joint plan on Tuesday, which he said he wants to get
cleared by the end of February, would allow the state to restructure
city debt and terminate municipal contracts, including with labor
unions. Control would last for five years instead of the previously
proposed 15 years.
It would allow the state to dissolve city departments, consolidate
and privatize municipal services and sell city assets, which were
all proposals included in a recent report by the city's emergency
manager Kevin Lavin about how to turn around the failing city.
The city's casino industry was hit hard by gambling competition in
neighboring states, causing the property tax base to shrink
The newest proposal would also reintroduce some form of legislation
that Christie previously vetoed, which was aimed at boosting cash
flow and stabilizing its tax base with fixed payments in lieu of
property taxes from casinos.
Christie's veto last week prompted concerns that the city's cash
flow would run dry by April.
At the time, Guardian said he opposed a takeover and that bankruptcy
was on the table, but on Tuesday he supported Christie's plan.
Other local elected officials, however, were still talking about a
bankruptcy at an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening.
[to top of second column]
The City Council introduced bankruptcy attorney Richard Trenk, who
underscored that two-thirds of the city council would have to vote
for a resolution requesting approval from the state's Local Finance
Board, which oversees the city's budget, for a municipal bankruptcy
He noted that there is "no humanly way" the city can pay the $160
million of casino property tax appeals it owes to the Borgata Casino
Hotel & Spa, which would be "impossible" to pay.
Many in Atlantic City are angry about a takeover because, they say,
the state has long enjoyed tax revenue generated by casinos but is
not giving back enough now that the city needs help.
"There's no excuse for Atlantic City to look the way it looks now,"
Linda Steele, president of the local NAACP chapter, told the
(Reporting by Daniel Kelley in Atlantic City; Additional reporting
Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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