Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, conditionally vetoed the state legislature’s fiscal rescue package for Atlantic City, the struggling casino hub.
Christie wrote in his statement, “While these bills represent the bipartisan efforts of many to provide important, near-term support to the city’s immediate challenges, I do not believe they meet the goal of setting a course toward renewed, long-term prosperity and economic growth. To achieve these goals, we must continue our work and go further to ensure that the next step leads to that economically vibrant future for Atlantic City.” He published this statement just before his 1 pm deadline to render his veto was about to finish on Monday, after five months of delay.
In the five-bill package, Atlantic City’s casino operators were allowed to make fixed annual payments instead of variable tax payments based on real estate values collectively. According to the 15-year plan, the city’s remaining eight casino operators would have to make annual payments of $150m in each of the first two years after the bill get passed, falling to $120 million in the following years.
Plans to guarantee health and pension benefits for unionized full-time casino employees and to eliminate the Atlantic City Alliance marketing agency were also rejected by Christie. The latter plan could open up $30 million that would help the city better handle its projected $101 million deficit this year. However, Christie wants the state Local Finance Board to hold this money to choose whether the money should be free, based on the city’s progress on getting its financial house in order.
Steve Sweeney, the State Senate President, expressed his disappointment by Christie’s veto at the Atlantic City fiscal rescue package and the associated delay with his response. “It’s incredibly unfortunate that 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.