New Jersey suing Atlantic City over school payment as financial standoff continues

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian answers a question at the New Jersey Statehouse after  Gov. Chris Christie announced that he has directed his education commissioner to sue Atlantic City to stop it from making a payroll payment Friday. Christie says the city owes its school district  $34 million. (AP photo/Mel Evans)

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian answers a question at the New Jersey Statehouse after Gov. Chris Christie announced that he has directed his education commissioner to sue Atlantic City to stop it from making a payroll payment Friday. Christie says the city owes its school district $34 million. (AP photo/Mel Evans)

As Atlantic City gets ever closer to running out of money, Gov. Chris Christie and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto have not made headway on a bill for the state to take over the city’s finances.

Further complicating matters Monday, the Christie administration is suing Atlantic City in an effort to force it to pay its school district.

It’s tax money Christie claims the city is using to fund it operations and what he calls “extraordinarily rich” public-sector union contracts.

“Now the action won’t fix Atlantic City’s financial problems, but it will prevent them from making Atlantic City students and their families collateral damage to their reckless financial gains,” the governor said during a Statehouse news conference.

Mayor Don Guardian objected, saying the city can make payments to the school district only when a state-appointed monitor orders it.

If Christie “wants to take legal action, I guess he’d have to ask the attorney general to take legal action against himself and the staff that he’s put in charge that tells us when to make payments to the school,” Guardian said.

Pressing once more for legislation allowing the state to take over the city’s finances,  Christie said there’s enough support to pass the bill if Prieto would allow a vote on the measure.

“The speaker’s irresponsible actions are now putting at risk one of America’s great historical cities,” said the governor.

Prieto, who said he won’t post the bill for a vote because it wouldn’t pass, added that the Assembly hasn’t been able to provide input on the measure.

“The Assembly has to be relevant. We have not had a discussion. We’re being dictated to, and that’s why I called on the Senate president to work with me on putting together something that we could all live with,” said Prieto, D-Hudson.

The speaker also wants assurance that the state would honor union contracts.

 

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