Chris Christie vetoes $33.5 million rescue package for Atlantic City
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a legislative package aimed at rescuing Atlantic City, the state’s troubled gambling hub, just before a deadline to act on Monday.
The city’s budget for fiscal 2015, which ends on Dec. 31, depends on at least $33.5 million in redirected casino revenue that would have flowed to the city if Christie had signed the bills.
It was unclear what impact the vetoes would have on the city’s budget. Christie, a Republican presidential candidate, signed one bill providing more state aid for Atlantic City schools.
Christie’s so-called conditional vetoes on three of the bills allow lawmakers to adopt his suggested changes and send them back for his signature. A spokesman for Mayor Don Guardian said the mayor would reserve comment until he reviewed the governor’s recommendations.
After initially criticizing the vetoes, Senate President Steve Sweeney released a statement with Christie later on Monday saying they “agreed to immediately sit down together, with consultation of interested parties, to construct a final and fast resolution path for Atlantic City.”
The Democratic-led legislature passed the five-bill package in June, but Christie did not act all summer.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate the governor chose to let these bills sit on his desk for months while he panders to voters across the country,” the bills’ sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo said in a statement.
The city has lost its monopoly on U.S. East Coast gambling as neighboring states allow more casinos. The competition eviscerated Atlantic City’s property tax base as casino values dwindled.
Christie said in his veto message that the bills “fail to recognize the true path to economic revitalization and fiscal stability” and that some provisions “simply shift resources to the city without requiring accountability.”
In one of the main bills, Christie wants the state, not the city, to have control over $30 million of casino payments to the city in lieu of taxes this year and next year. The state could withhold that funding if the city does not agree to certain changes under a financial recovery plan, according to Christie’s proposal.
Until state lawmakers revise that main bill in a way palatable to Christie, the city also will not get the $33.5 million in redirected casino revenues for this year’s budget.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Peter Cooney)