TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is insisting that Gov. Chris Christie voice support for a package of bills to aid Atlantic City and its casinos before they can be voted upon.
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Sweeney hand-delivered copies of the bills — which still have not received final votes in the Legislature — to Christie's office Tuesday. Afterward, he told The Associated Press he will not post them for final votes unless Christie indicates support, saying that emergency managers appointed by the governor have spooked Wall Street and led to costly credit downgrades for Atlantic City.
"We can't risk any more damage. He's done enough," Sweeney said. "We went in this thing with a partnership in trying to fix it and things didn't work out how we would hope. And I say 'we.' I've worked with the administration, we shared the legislation, we drafted the legislation, it was reviewed by them so why are they hesitating to say yes to something that we were under the impression that they were favorable of?"
Sweeney said a vote could be held on May 19, but only "if he says he commits to it."
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts repeated his call from last week for the Legislature to pass the bills and send them to the governor for review.
A key proposal would let casinos make payments in lieu of taxes for 15 years and redirect some taxes and fees to reduce Atlantic City's debt.
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The city's eight casinos strongly favor the legislation. The Casino Association of New Jersey called on both sides to act as quickly as possible to approve it.
"Without this act, certain casinos that remain in Atlantic City are at risk," the group said in a statement. "That means thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue also remain at risk as do other businesses that rely on the casinos for their livelihood. This legislation is a critical and, in fact, the primary component to the overall plan that must be pursued by the city to stabilize revenue, reduce expenses and reverse a vicious spiral that will otherwise lead to very negative ramifications to the city, the county, the region and the state."
Also Tuesday, Christie's office said the state is giving Atlantic City an extra three months to repay a $40 million loan it approved in December to help the city through a financial crisis brought on by the declining value of the city's taxable property. The new deadline is June 30.
Associated Press writer Wayne Parry in Atlantic City contributed to this report.