The standoff over competing bills to have the state take over Atlantic City continued this week, with Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) failing to come to a compromise despite meeting in person to reach consensus. Following Governor Chris Christie’s dismissal of Prieto’s bill as hobbled by its lack of a 41-vote majority in the lower house, Prieto fired back Friday with a harsh appraisal of Christie’s standing with the public.
Prieto still has not posted his proposal, which would give Atlantic City an additional two years of benchmarks before forcing the city to sell off assets and break union contracts with early retirement buyouts or layoffs. Christie joined those who have said Prieto’s 34-vote margin of support does not make for a viable alternative to the Sweeney bill.
“You can’t say you have an alternative when you haven’t passed it out of your own house,” Christie said of Prieto’s bill earlier this week.
“More of the same old from a governor who continues to fiddle while Atlantic City teeters,” Prieto said in a statement. “No wonder he has a 27 percent approval rating. I continue to wait for a serious effort to negotiate a compromise, and I will post the Assembly’s bipartisan bill – and it will pass – when I deem it time to do so. Gov. Christie can keep playing his games, but I will not post a bill to give him dictatorial powers to trample core values such as collective bargaining, fair labor practices and civil liberties.”
Where the Christie-backed takeover plan would have the city answer to the state Local Finance Board, Prieto’s would establish a committee with members of the city government, members of the administration and an appointee from the state Supreme Court.
The Prieto bill has garnered significant support from Prieto’s allies in North Jersey, and has caused many Republicans to break ranks with the governor over the more aggressive Senate bill. Assemblymen Chris Brown (R-2) and Erik Peterson (R-23) voted for Prieto’s alternative bill when it cleared committee earlier this month. Chrisite has called Prieto’s opposition a feint for damaging Sweeney politically as he takes on Jersey City Mayor and Prieto ally Steve Fulop in 2017’s gubernatorial primaries.
As things stand now, Sweeney’s only concession has been to allow Atlantic City 130 days after the takeover bill becomes law to reduce their per capita spending by nearly half. Prieto has called that request unrealistic.