Prieto’s Atlantic City bill up for vote on Thursday

New Jersey assembly speaker Vincent Prieto announced he will put his rescue plan for Atlantic City up for a vote tomorrow.

US.- Tomorrow (Thursday) New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto will put his own rescue plan for Atlantic City up for a vote. This proposal will need 41 votes to pass in the Assembly.

Prieto’s bill would create a commission to establish performance benchmarks that Atlantic City would have to meet over two years before a full state takeover could happen. On the other hand, the Senate version would give the city just 130 days to get its finances in order.

Atlantic City is caught in the crossfire, as the drawn-out standoff between fellow Democrats Prieto and state Senate President Steve Sweeney has kept crucial aid from the nearly broke gambling hub. Sweeney’s rival Atlantic City aid measure is backed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whilst Prieto has refused to back the Senate bill, largely because it would allow the state to unilaterally break union contracts.

Governor Christie has repeatedly said he will only sign the Senate bill, without changes. If Prieto’s bill passes the Assembly, Sweeney is not likely to post it for a vote in the Senate and Christie is not likely to sign it. If Prieto’s bill does not pass, it is uncertain whether he would then post the Senate bill for a vote in the Assembly.

In the meantime, Atlantic City is on the verge of running out of money. On Monday it narrowly avoided becoming the first New Jersey city in 78 years to default on its debt by scraping up enough cash to make a US$1.8 million bond payment.

Both bills include a provision to allow the city’s eight casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes in return for not appealing their tax assessments. The casinos would benefit from cost-certainty in knowing what their annual expenses will be, whilst the city would benefit by not having to deal with the tax appeals that casinos have used to devastating effect over the past 10 years in the city’s budget as the value of their gambling halls declines.