Alternative to Atlantic City takeover advances, but barriers abound

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Assembly Speaker Vincent Preito discusses his plan at an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing as Atlantic City officials wait to testify. (Phil Gregory/WHYY))

Assembly Speaker Vincent Preito discusses his plan at an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing as Atlantic City officials wait to testify. (Phil Gregory/WHYY))

A New Jersey Assembly committee has voted to advance an alternative to a state takeover of Atlantic City’s finances.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s plan would give the city a year to reduce expenses before the state could dissolve departments or sell assets. It would allow two years before collective bargaining agreements could be terminated.

“This is a bill that talks about the civil liberties and the self-governance for those people in Atlantic City so they’re not disenfranchised and it gives time for city to do the right thing because over the last five years they’ve been making some gains but they need help,” said Prieto, D-Hudson, during a Thursday hearing.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said Prieto’s bill is fair.

“This is a plan that we absolutely can live with,” he said. “This makes a lot of sense. I think we need to work on the governor and say, ‘Come on, give us a chance. we want to help ourselves.'”

Governor Chris Christie, however, termed Prieto’s’ plan ineffective.

“It is not a solution to the problem,” said the governor. “It creates more bureaucracy, more delay.”

There’s no indication that the Assembly, the Senate, and the governor will be able to reach some sort of a compromise.

Meanwhile, Atlantic City moves closer to running out of money despite an agreement Wednesday to stretch out its dwindling financial reserve.

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