Senators Unveil Plan for State Takeover of Atlantic City

Sweeney and O'Toole hold up the award given to O'Toole.

Sweeney and O’Toole hold up the award given to O’Toole.

TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Senator Kevin O’Toole(R-40) this afternoon announced their intention to introduce legislation to have the state assume more management of Atlantic City’s finances.

“Atlantic City has to recognize and accept the serious financial problems that continue to plague the city’s operations and management,” said Sweeney. “We have given the city every opportunity to make the right decisions and take the needed actions to adequately address the ongoing fiscal crisis, but the job has not been done. It is time to take more serious actions and it has become obvious that the state has to take a more direct role to find an effective solution. There is no way of wishing the problems away.”

“Taxpayers from Bergen County to Cape May have sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Atlantic City in recent years, and this fiscal reform will ensure that their elected representatives can be watchful stewards of their past, present and future investments,” O’Toole said. “This is the pathway to create an efficient, accountable and transparent Atlantic City government. It will expedite the city’s evolution into a new prime-time destination for people on the East Coast and beyond with diverse options for jobs, tourism and entertainment.”

“We want to give the taxpayers of New Jersey an active voice in how public funds are spent in Atlantic City,” said Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee. “The state continues to provide substantial resources to a city with a budget that is far out of proportion for its size and population. We have to bring responsible financial management and practices to Atlantic City.”

The threesome noted that Atlantic City has approximately 39,000 residents but an operating budget of more than $262 million, which translates into a price tag of $6,717 per person. That is a bloated budget that is completely unacceptable and unsustainable, Sweeney said.

In comparison, Newark has a population of 280,000, a budget of $766 million, with per capita costs of $2,736; Paterson has 147,000 residents and a $250 million budget, equaling $1,700 in per capita spending; Camden’s population is 76,900, spending $150 million, with a $1,953 per capita; and for Trenton’s 84,000 residents the city spends $199 million, which is $2,368 per person.

“If this action doesn’t succeed, I will support a declaration of bankruptcy for Atlantic City,” said Sweeney. “We have to do what needs to be done to bring financial stability and responsibility to the city.”