A backroom player on the phone calls connected to the state’s casinos controversy, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo today broke into the open, calling on Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) to forge a compromise plan that will bring casinos to Northern New Jersey.
“New Jersey is facing a revenue crisis. There’s not enough money to properly maintain our roads, support the Green Acres program, fund the pension system and fund public schools,” DiVincenzo said. “Casino revenue is not the solution to all of the State’s financial problems, but it will provide funding to support Atlantic City and be a new source of recurring revenue for the State that we need right now.”
The executive has close political ties to Sweeney and a more cautious relationship with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (who vociferously backs Prieto’s version). But he stopped short of endorsing one bill or the other, focusing on a compromise plan, which he noted could create about $3 billion worth of construction over the short term, provide thousands of construction jobs and result in 10,000 to 15,000 permanent jobs.
Essex County would be one of three northern counties vying for one of two casinos.
“All of our neighbors – Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Delaware – are light years ahead of New Jersey and we are losing valuable revenue because our residents are traveling across state lines for this entertainment. If we fail to put aside our differences and don’t act now, New Jersey will never be able to compete in this region,” DiVincenzo said. “The gridlock over the competing plans for casinos in Northern New Jersey is not good for the people of our State. It’s time for both our Senate President and Assembly Speaker to come to the table and work out a compromise instead of turning the casino debate into a political issue. This is not a Northern Jersey vs. Southern Jersey issue – it should be about doing what is best for New Jersey.”