Legislative prescription for Atlantic City calls for stabilizing tax base

 This July 11, 2014 file photo shows many of the Atlantic City N.J. Boardwalk casinos. (Wayne Parry/AP File Photo)

This July 11, 2014 file photo shows many of the Atlantic City N.J. Boardwalk casinos. (Wayne Parry/AP File Photo)

Two New Jersey lawmakers are introducing legislation aimed at helping stabilize Atlantic City’s finances.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Jim Whelan say it’s critical for the legislature to pass the measures they’re proposing to protect the city from bankruptcy and position it for future growth.

Recent casino closings and competition from other states have cut Atlantic City’s tax base by half, said Whelan, D-Atlantic.

“The No. 1 problem the residents and small businesses are feeling in Atlantic City right now is taxes, property taxes. Every time a casino closes, that property tax burden shifts to the rest of us,” he said Tuesday. “I still live in Atlantic City, so I see my bills go up. And that just drives that many more people out of town.”

The legislation would dedicate some casino revenue now used for development projects to pay down Atlantic City’s debt and obligate casinos to make guaranteed tax payments to the city.

Whelan acknowledged bankruptcy as a possibility, but said he expects that will be averted.

“Well, that would be the worst-case scenario, bankruptcy, but I don’t think we’re at that point,” said the former Atlantic City mayor. “I think if everyone rolls up their sleeves on this, there’s going to be some pain unfortunately, less services and so on, but, hopefully, it will be enough to prevent further disasters.”

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