TRENTON — Withe the city’s fiscal situation now “more severe” than ever, according to the emergency manager installed by Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year, the Assembly passed today A3920, a bill that aims to create jobs and spur economic development in the embattled Atlantic City by designating it an Urban Enterprise Zone.
On the Assembly floor, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-3), stood to call attention to the city’s struggles and recent events that have stressed the need for swift action
“Let me be clear; this is not a one shot gimmick, this is not piecemeal — this is solely about restarting things,” he said.
“We all know the gigantic hurdle Atlantic City is facing. This bill would put $22 million back into Atlantic City to help pay down debt,” he added.
Christie’s emergency management team released its first 60 day report on the city’s economy and finances on Tuesday, painting a more dire situation than some had estimated. Kevin Lavin called the situation a full-blown financial “crisis”, and said the city faces a budget shortfall of $101 million dollars this year alone.
Mazzeo, who’s also sponsored legislation that would roll out a PILOT program for Atlantic City with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), blasted that report — or rather “lack of report”, he said. Mazzeo argued the current bill could help alleviate some of the burden its economy currently faces.
The UEZ program would allow Atlantic City businesses to participate in incentives meant to stimulate growth, including slashing the state’s sales tax.
“Atlantic City is down right now, but we are not out,” Mazzeo said.
The bill passed 55-18 — but not before Republican legislators attempted to table it for amendments, a motion which ultimately failed 43-29.
“We need to stop nibbling at the edges with a municipality here and a municipality there,” said Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-39). “W need to reduce the sales tax in the entire state.”