Despite calling an Atlantic City state takeover bill from Senate President Steve Sweeney “an overreach” and voting against it, Jennifer Beck (R-11) said during committee Thursday that she has changed her position on the takeover’s accompanying bill to offer Atlantic City’s remaining casinos a payment in lieu of taxes deal.
Beck was the lone dissenting vote when the takeover bill advanced in committee 9-1 this afternoon, but said that despite her misgivings about the casinos themselves Atlantic City’s risk of insolvency is too great for her to continue opposing the PILOT program.
“I do support the bill because I think we really don’t have many other options today,” Beck said before casting her vote. “With my dealings with the casinos, I have had a healthy distrust. I guess I can say that openly.
“I find it really odd that on two bills that directly impact them, none of the seven are here, none of them have testified, the association isn’t here. Where is the Borgata, where’s Tropicana, where’s Caesars, where’s Golden Nugget, Harrah’s, Taj Mahal and Resorts? None of them are here. I think that’s odd.”
The PILOT program would stanch the losses in the city’s ratable base by offering the casinos fixed payments rather than conventional taxes based on property value. As out-of-state competition has swelled, the casinos have disputed their valuations as too high and successfully appealed their tax rates numerous times.
“My hesitancy was, we’re exempting them from regular taxation, the regular process that we use to tax property and instead allowing them to access a PILOT,” Beck said of the deal. “I obviously understand, in light of what’s happened over the last several years, the motivation why. Because the tax appeals have provided this uncertainty in the revenue stream to run this city.
“I’m disappointed that the casinos aren’t here to talk about their vision for the future and how this going to be turned around,” she added.
With Beck’s vote the bill passed 13-0. The recovery package goes to a vote in the Senate Monday.