Christie: Political arguments need to end in order to help Atlantic City; taxes and costs eyed

Government And Institutions Associated Press

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie began his second summit on the future of Atlantic City by saying there are still opportunities to save the struggling seaside resort, but warned that political arguments need to end now.

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At the start of Wednesday's meeting with casino, government and labor leaders, the governor said mistakes were made by local government and the private sector that contributed to the city's current struggles. Four of the city's 12 casinos have closed this year and a fifth is on the brink; 8,000 workers have been laid off.

Wednesday's meeting was expected to focus on potential relief from taxes and other costs for casinos, while making sure the city government and schools have enough money to function.

"Let me be really clear: there are opportunities that we need to take advantage of," he said. "I don't think we have any more time to waste, especially on political arguments. The egos have to leave the room."

The second session, following an initial one in September, was expected to present some recommendations from a group headed by Christie confidante Jon Hansen; none have yet been made public. Christie said half-measures will no longer be accepted.

"Band-Aids have been put on in the past," he said. "To the extent folks suggest larger Band-Aids, that's not something I'm going to be interested in," he said.

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Earlier this week, state Senate President Steve Sweeney offered a plan to redirect some casino redevelopment payments toward paying down Atlantic City's debt, and letting casinos make $150 million in payments in lieu of taxes for two years before a different tax structure kicks in for the next 13 years.

Legislators from northern New Jersey and the state's horse racing industry are also pushing hard for the state to allow casinos outside of Atlantic City.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC