Atlantic City on The Brink: Christie Calls Mayor ‘Liar’ with ‘Zero Idea What’s He’s Talking About’
ATLANTIC CITY — Another day closer to this gambling town running out of money, Gov. Chris Christie continued blasting fellow Republican Mayor Don Guardian and Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto for blocking state-takeover legislation already approved by the state Senate.
The city remains on the brink of financial collapse and municipal officials have said they will not be able to pay employees after this week. The state Senate has passed a bill, supported by Christie, that would allow the state to bail out the city by giving the state authority to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements with public-sector unions, a provision that Prieto steadfastly opposes.
Earlier this week, the state took the city to court to prevent officials from making its payroll Friday because the city owes the school district $34 million.
Also this week, Moody’s downgraded the city’s credit rating, saying that in order to turn around its “negative outlook,” the state would need to adopt legislation “that meaningfully augments city revenues and materially reduces the structural budget deficit” and that the state has to “ensure that bondholders are paid in full, even as fiscal recovery legislation remains pending.”
Adding to the woes, is that a faltering Atlantic City could hurt the credit rating of other cities in the state.
Christie on Wednesday appeared at a news conference with Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, both of whom said the county government would be willing to take on shared services in order to help the cash-strapped municipality save money.
Christie said the city has “refused” to take on shared service agreements with the county or regionalize its fire department.
Christie repeated comments he's made before about the fiscal management of the city, including criticisms of generous health benefits and vacation and sick-day payouts afforded to municipal employees. The municipality has suffered revenue shortfalls partly as a result of its collapsing casino industry.
“I see no purpose in meeting with a liar,” Christie said in response to a question about whether he’d sit down with Guardian after weeks of an escalating war of words between the two. "He has zero idea of what he's talking about."
In January, Guardian appeared at a news conference with Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney to announce the proposed state takeover plan. But the mayor has since withdrawn his support. Last week, Guardian asked the public to "pray" for Christie.
Prieto continues to exist the Christie already has the authority to help Atlantic City, saying Tuesday that he would not "support legislation that eviscerates collective bargaining rights, fair labor practices and the civil liberties of the people of Atlantic City."
Christie on Wednesday called that "ridiculous," reiterating that if he had the authority if he would act on it and added that public employee unions would have to share in the sacrifice.
“Let’s put aside this idea of democracy,” Christie said. “The people of Atlantic City were abandoned by their local officials a long time ago.”