Christie, Sweeney Call for State to Takeover Atlantic City [VIDEO]
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Gov. Christie said the state will assume vast control over Atlantic City's money and decision-making, saying the city cannot get its own financial house in order and, "the only thing that is really holding Atlantic City back is its governmental structure and the debt and the cost of its government."
Christie was joined by State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian at the press conference where he said, "Atlantic City's finances are now the greatest threat to the city's well-being. The urgency of the city's current financial predicament cannot be overstated."
Christie and Sweeney said the takeover bill in the state legislature will be changed to incorporate elements of a financial assistance package that the governor vetoed last week, which will include a PILOT provision that will allow the city's casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes and will also prohibit them from appealing their property taxes. Another one of the proposed changes will have the state monitoring the city for 5 years instead of the originally proposed 15 years.
Mayor Don Guardian, who initially opposed a state takeover, said he decided to accept the state's help and that it was time for some "tough decisions and some pain" as the city moves forward.
According to reports on Twitter, some Atlantic City city council members will be holding a press conference of their own Tuesday evening.
Here is the text of a portion of Gov. Christie's press conference:
We have done a lot of things so far that have worked for the private sector. You have seen non-casino gaming revenue grow, you have seen more private sector investment in Atlantic City, outside of the casinos. Whether it was Bass Pro Shops or other things that have gone on down there that have been really positive and the Mayor has been a large part of that since he’s been there in terms of giving people confidence that he wanted to do the right thing. The bottom line now is, the only thing that is really holding Atlantic City back is its governmental structure and the debt and the cost of its government. And so, Steve and I talked about this five years ago when we did the first Atlantic City package. We talked about the possibility of doing this type of intervention then and we just could not come to an agreement with all the parties involved to be able to do it at that time and we said, ok, let’s set up the tourism district, let’s do some other things to try to encourage this to work and see if it will. It worked in part in the private sector, but it did not work with the government and so now we have to take this next aggressive step. This is something that Steve and I have been talking about for five years. We wanted to give Atlantic City a five year opportunity to have some of these problems work out on their own, they did not. So now we need to take those stronger steps to intervene and to work as partners with the Mayor going forward, and I think we will be able to do that. So that is what happened. We looked to come to a solution and Steve said it very well, when folks say that you can’t get things done, this is another example of an issue that was at least being portrayed in the media and by some stakeholders as being intractable and unsolvable, but when people of goodwill get in a room and they talk to each other as Steve has done and I have done and the Mayor has done, you can get things done.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.