Atlantic City financial crisis looms

Mar 28, 2016 5:32 PM

Atlantic City hurtled toward a financial crisis that means IOUs for police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers while city and state officials trade blame for the seaside gambling resort’s increasingly dire predicament.

Mayor Don Guardian held a news conference to detail plans for a shutdown of nonessential city services from April 8 to May 2, due, he said, to the state’s continuing inability to pass a financial rescue package that Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed twice already.

“On April 8, we will run out of money; that’s a fact,” Guardian said.

He said the situation needs to be resolved by an agreement with state officials on long-term help for Atlantic City, which has seen its largest taxpayer, the casino industry, crumble in recent years.

“How long can we last?” he asked. “Not long.”

But Christie said the city’s problems are largely of its own making through years of overspending. The governor said he will sign two bills seen as crucial to the city’s future – a state takeover of Atlantic City’s finances, and a bill to allow casinos to make payments in lieu of property taxes – only if they are not amended first. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is refusing to approve the bills in his chamber without guarantees that public employee contracts will be honored after a state takeover – something to which Christie will not agree.

“If this is not passed and put on my desk in the exact form that it was passed on the Senate, then no action will be taken and Atlantic City will be out of money on April 8,” Christie said. “They can all come to the speaker’s office and ask him why. If they all want to suck up to the public sector unions for their own political gain, then that’s their choice.”

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].