AC Mayor Guardian: ‘Pray’ for Christie to Find Wisdom to Treat Us Fairly
Speaking with New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea at the Garden State Film Festival at Resorts Friday morning, Guardian said "we all want to find a solution" that reduces the cost of government in Atlantic City so that state taxpayers aren't stuck with the bill.
Atlantic City is just days away from running out of money. The Republican and Democratic State Senate President Steve Sweeney have brokered a bill for a state takeover of the city — but Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, also a Democrat, has refused to let it come up for a vote in his chamber, objecting to its union-busting provisions.
Guardian suggested a solution that "redirects funds from the casinos" and provides his city with "just a portion of what every other city gets from the state of New Jersey."
Guardian said that he, Christie and state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto initially agreed to a compromise that would have given the city more aid, a cut of the casino revenues and more control over the city's finances.
"You want to make sure we're not bad boys financially," Guardian said.
But Guardian said a takeover does not make any sense to him.
"The state doesn't do a good job for takeovers," he said. "The state has no plan on how to fix Atlantic City," said Guardian.
He added that "everything this governor has asked us to do we have done."
Prieto has refused to introduce the bills over his opposition to a provision that would allow the city to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements with city employees.
Christie on Wednesday's Ask the Governor and again at a lengthy press conference at the State House Thursday repeated his basic message: that the takeover plan is the best way to fix Atlantic City's financial situation. He spoke of out-of-control finances — such as AC's per-resident spending of $6,600 that dwarf's even Newark's $2,344.
"Atlantic City is heading for a disaster and North Jersey gaming is heading for a defeat if we don’t get our act together,” Christie said.
Guardian has argued that given Atlantic City's year-round massive influx of tourists, per-resident costs don't make for a fair comparison.
"The number (Christie) is using isn't fair," because they are from two and three years ago Guardian said. "Then he beats us up when he knows that we have done everything he and his staff have asked us to do to reduce costs."
Guardian said that Atlantic City's "true population" is closed to 200,000 year-round when taking into account visitors and employees.
Christie said this week if the Atlantic City takeover isn't approved as currently negotiated, he'll also oppose North Jersey gaming, "and I will use every bit of influence I have to make sure that the referendum (to approve North Jersey gaming) is defeated."
Michael Symons and Vin Ebenau contributed to this report