Atlantic City will likely avert next month’s planned government shutdown … for now

Charts surround New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie  during a news conference on the financial future of Atlantic City Thursday. Meanwhile

Charts surround New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a news conference on the financial future of Atlantic City Thursday. Meanwhile

A plan that would switch Atlantic City public workers to monthly paychecks instead of checks every two weeks, is moving forward.  It’s an effort to buy the city more time to come up with enough money so the checks don’t bounce.

The city’s white-collar union, which represents about 300 workers, approved the plan on Wednesday, but president Jenny Darnell said members continue to worry about the city’s financial problems.

“There’s a lot of uneasiness within our membership,” Darnell said. “There’s a good bit of us who are longtime employees who never thought we would see the day where Atlantic City can’t meet payroll. And nobody wants to help.”

Unions for police officers and firefighters, who had agreed to work without pay through a  three-week shutdown planned to begin April 8, expect their members to approve the plan sometime next week.

“We’ve told the city leaders that we will be coming to work to protect the city,” said Bill Dilorenzo, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 198.

“Membership is willing to do basically anything for this city right now,” said Keith Bennett, state delegate for the Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 24. “People that I’ve talked to said the mayor has our back, so we have their back as well.”

City Council would still need to approve the plan to pay workers every four weeks.

Governor demands action on takeover plan

Meanwhile, at a Trenton news conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie again called for a state takeover of the struggling resort town’s finances and criticized news of the stopgap measure.

“You don’t save any money that way,” said Christie. “It just puts off the day of reckoning.”

The governor said he will campaign against a November referendum to expand casino gambling to North Jersey if lawmakers don’t approve a bill allowing the state to take over Atlantic City’s finances.

“The people of New Jersey are not dumb. If they see a crisis in Atlantic City that’s worsening and worsening and no one is doing anything, how would they ever approve gaming for the northern part of the state?” Christie said. “Who would fund an advertising campaign to support the referendum if things are going the way they are in Atlantic City?”

Christie is urging Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto to post the takeover bill for a vote at next Thursday’s Assembly session. Prieto has opposed the takeover legislation because it could break collective bargaining agreements.

Reprieve may be short-lived

Officials expected to shut down City Hall on April 8 and did not anticipate having the cash to pay to pay employees again until May 2, when Atlantic City is set to receive its quarterly round of tax payments.

Police officers, firefighters, and sanitation workers had vowed to stay on the job and receive back pay after May 2. Other workers had been expecting to collect unemployment.

All city employees would work under the new plan, but officials said it does not solve the underlying cash-flow problem.

“I’m expecting — June to July — the same situation to happen again. We’ll get a little breathing room in August. And after that, forget about it,” said City Council President Marty Small.

Christie said Thursday he won’t allow Atlantic City to file for bankruptcy because that could lead to credit rating downgrades for some other cities in the state.

“It would mean the cost of borrowing would be more expensive, which would mean taxes would be more expensive,” the governor said. “And it could mean the inability to borrow which would really restrict their ability to invest in their city and do the things they need to do to keep the government running in an efficient and effective way.”

A default by Atlantic City on its debt payments could also influence the decisions of credit rating agencies.

 

Governor Christie says he’ll campaign against a November referendum to expand casino gambling to North Jersey if lawmakers don’t approve a bill allowing the state to take over Atlantic City’s finances.

 

Christie says voters would not approve the ballot question if the only city in the state where casinos are now allowed doesn’t have the cash to pay its bills.

 

“The people of New Jersey are not dumb. If they see a crisis in Atlantic City that’s worsening and worsening and no one is doing anything, how would they ever approve gaming for the northern part of the state? Who would fund an advertising campaign to support the referendum if things are going the way they are in Atlantic City?”

 

Christie is urging Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto to post the takeover bill for a vote at next Thursday’s Assembly session.

 

“Atlantic City is heading for a disaster and North Jersey gaming is heading for a defeat if we don’t get our act together. So it’s time to stop all the theater.”

 

Prieto has been opposing the takeover legislation because it could break collective bargaining agreements.

 

Christie says he won’t allow Atlantic City to file for bankruptcy because that could lead to credit rating downgrades for some other cities in the state.

 

 “It would mean the cost of borrowing would be more expensive, which would mean taxes would be more expensive. And it could mean the inability to borrow which would really restrict their ability to invest in their city and do the things they need to do to keep the government running in an efficient and effective way.”

 

A default by Atlantic City on its debt payments could also influence the decisions of credit rating agencies.

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