N.J. Assembly speaker blocks vote on Atlantic City takeover plan

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto says a bill to take over Atlantic City is not needed. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto says a bill to take over Atlantic City is not needed. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Two top government officials in New Jersey won’t back down in their battle over a proposed state takeover of Atlantic City’s finances.

Allowing the state to scrap collective bargaining agreements as part of the takeover is unacceptable, Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto reiterated Thursday. And the said the takeover bill is unnecessary because the governor already has the legal authority to step in if Atlantic City defaults on a debt payment.

“He does have all the power to do everything he wants. Everything he needs to do,” said Prieto, D-Hudson, at a news conference.

Not so, said Gov. Chris Christie.

“The speaker doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Christie said. “I have the authority to block things, not to implement things.”

Prieto said he won’t put the bill up for a vote because it would allow the state to eliminate collective bargaining agreements. But he’s open to a compromise.

“I’d even talk about doing benchmarks that we would do in a bill, benchmarks and see where are you within 12 months, 18 months,” he said. “If they don’t meet those benchmarks, then collective bargaining, maybe we have to revisit that too.”

Christie said the only way to solve the city’s financial problems is to give the state broad authority to renegotiate its debt and union contracts.

Without a takeover, the governor said, Atlantic City will run out of money April 8.

“If Atlantic City’s finances go down the tubes, there’s only one person to blame — and that’s Vincent Prieto,” Christie said.

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