TRENTON – The battle between Governor Chris Christie and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) regarding the future of Atlantic City rages on. Despite the fact that Prieto’s new bill—one that he is calling a compromise—cleared committee today, Christie said that he will not consider signing any bills other than the ones already passed in the Senate.
“This is the most irresponsible game of political chicken I have ever seen,” Christie said after a Trenton press conference on the expansion of behavioral health homes in NJ. “But I want the Speaker to understand something. I will not sign anything other than the two bills passed by the senate in a bipartisan manner and I will sign them together.”
Prieto has been pushing back against those Senate bills because he claims that they lack collective bargaining provisions. According to Christie, however, the new bill, A3614, dissolves those provisions in the third year. Christie said he believes that move is intentional and planned for after his term ends.
“Everything is on the table but collective bargaining. Interestingly enough, in year three, we can violate the sacrosanct collective bargaining agreements,” Christie said. “Three years from now. What happens three years from now? I won’t be here anymore. Why do you think he gave the governor that authority three years from now? Because I will be gone in 20 months. He is counting on the fact that he will have a Democrat that is beholden to the public sector unions.”
According to Christie, Prieto’s pushback against the original bills—which passed with the support of 15 Democratic state senators—has to do with “protecting his political patrons.”
“If there was any illusion any longer about why the Speaker was doing this I think the comments this morning by AFL-CIO president [Charles] Wowkanech made it really clear,” Christie said. He said that ‘Unions built this city and unions run this city.’ Speaker Prieto is taking his marching orders from these kinds of folks.” Christie also went on to call A3614 the “union protection bill.”
Under Preito’s plan, a seven-person committee would be formed that would set benchmarks for the state to meet. After that, a master appointed by the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court would determine if the benchmarks had been substantially met.
“Having known him, now, for 15 years, I can assure he knows nothing about this topic,” Christie said of Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “He will pick a special master for reasons no one can really explain. If you trust the people of Atlantic City to set the benchmarks, who don’t you trust the people on the committee to see if those benchmarks have been met?’
Christie called A3614 a “bureaucratic disaster.”
“He is just trying to get it pushed passed to when I leave,” Christie said of Prieto. “It is a typical Hudson County pol move. I am sure he came up with it with Senator [Nick] Sacco, the two of them in a room somewhere.”
According to Christie, there are no plans for him and Prieto to meet regarding the Atlantic City takeover. The two met on Monday to discuss the issue. Atlantic City is on track to run out of funds in May unless action is taken by the legislature. A report released by Moody’s on Monday claimed that ten other New Jersey cities could face credit downgrade of Atlantic City defaults on its debts.