Regarding Atlantic City, downgraded again this week by Standard and Poor’s, “everybody’s in a panic right now,” an insider confided to PolitickerNJ, as the county and city stand at odds over so-called Atlantic City Economic Revitalization Legislation and Governor Chris Christie remains silent.
“I don’t understand it,” Assembly Gaming Committee Chairman Ralph Caputo (D-28) said of Christie’s decision to date not to sign S-2572/A3981, S2574-S2576/A3983-A3985.
At least part of the delay involves a local backroom war between Atlantic City and Atlantic County over details in the PILOT bills aimed at bringing $120 million in property tax contributions and the reallocation of approximately $60 million in CRDA and ACA funding to the city. At the heart of it, County Executive Dennis Levinson wants 13.5% of the PILOT payment made to Atlantic City and Mayor Don Guardian wants a different figure.
While sources decry the lack of a strong voice from Trenton to resolve the county-city kerfuffle, one insider told PolitickerNJ that the governor was supposed to get on a call with Levinson this morning.
“It’s all about politics,” Caputo said. “If this were about good policy, we would have gotten the northern gaming casino question on the ballot for this November.”
Caputo is adamant about continuing to move on that front for next year’s ballot, and is convinced that he and other advocates will be able to make the case to South Jersey that the plan will help draw in revenues that can be allocated to Atlantic City to help that gaming mecca revitalize. “This issue is so important to the state of New Jersey,” Caputo told PolitickerNJ. “We’ve got to go back in and make sure it gets done.”
In the meantime, Caputo said, the governor needs to sign the PILOT bills to help Atlantic City confront its $100 million deficit. “Hopefully this will stop the bleeding,” the assemblyman said of the PILOT bills.
The Casino Association of New Jersey put out a statement of disbelief in the inaction of all levels of government to respond to the city’s fiscal crisis.
“Why is the process stalled? We don’t know for sure, but it can’t help that the city has not finalized the terms of an agreement with the state to assure that the state funding to the city is committed and that the city is doing its part to reduce its debt. It also does not help that the county, which historically relied so heavily on casino property tax valuations that are simply no longer there, is raising issues with the city because it believes it should be getting a greater share of the city’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) funds.”