There was plenty of drama, but no action Thursday at the New Jersey Statehouse on Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto’s bill to rescue Atlantic City.
Assembly members met in private and waited more than five hours before Prieto cancelled the session because he didn’t have the votes for his measure to pass.
What’s more, he said, there was no support from Assembly Democrats for the Senate’s version of an Atlantic City takeover.
“I asked everybody, ‘Can you vote for the Senate bill today?’ Not one hand went up and everybody wanted a compromise,” said Prieto, D-Hudson, during what was the third press conference of the day on the rescue plan.
Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie each called their own news conference to lambaste Prieto and the delay in substantive action to aid Atlantic City, which is little more than a week away from bankruptcy.
Prieto said he hopes lawmakers can agree on compromise legislation to put before the Assembly on Wednesday.
“The first year of benchmarks could be a shorter timeframe. I think [Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian] has even agreed to that. I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” Prieto said. “There are different things that are realistic. What can they cut realistically.”
Sweeney said any further legislation will have to be something Christie would sign.
“If we could come to a compromise, of course we’d want one,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “But why did we have to wait all this time? Why did we have to wait six weeks?”
Christie said he’s willing to look at whatever lawmakers come up with, as long as they give him major decision-making power over Atlantic City’s finances.
“Any conversation of anything like the bill that the Speaker put up has to now be over, and we need a bill with the kind of broad authority that the Sweeney bill has with the tools that it gives to the executive branch, and that’s what we need to get done,” Christie said.