Atlantic City Crisis Unsolved as Christie Continues War of Words with Lawmaker
Is today the day Atlantic City will run out of money and be forced to go bankrupt?
Don’t ask Gov. Chris Christie.
During a news conference in Ewing on Wednesday, Christie said he doesn’t know because he’s made requests three times this week to find out what the cash balances are in each of the city's three accounts, and “they won’t give us the information, they said we’ll consult with the mayor and get back to you. That’s three days ago.”
Atlantic City is teetering on the edge of financial disaster, but state lawmakers can’t agree on a rescue plan.
Christie supports a state takeover measure that’s been passed by the state Senate, but Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson, refuses to post it for a vote in the lower house.
Prieto had promised a vote on his own rescue plan last week, one that gives city officials an additional two years to get their financial house in order, and one that would not allow union contract deals to be dissolved until 2018, but he abruptly cancelled the vote when it became clear he didn’t have the needed support from his chamber, even though Democrats control the Assembly.
The speaker then said another vote would take place on a compromise bill, but that vote was also called off because a compromise was never reached.
Christie said he’s now mystified by Prieto’s behavior, and his insistence that he be involved in the process of crafting a rescue plan.
“It’s time for the game playing to stop," Christie said. "I don’t understand how the speaker wants to be a player at the table. Pass a bill.”
“The fact of the matter is, that the Speaker has utterly failed in his leadership responsibilities.”
Christie also took issue with assertions by Prieto that he has the legal authority to step in and save Atlantic City from going bust.
"The only person who has not come to the table with anything, the reason he doesn’t have a seat at the table, you got to bring something to the table. What’s he brought, except defiance? If I don’t have anything on my desk to sign, and he can’t point me to the inherent authority he says I have, well what am I supposed to do? I’m at the mercy of the Legislature to do something about this problem and time is running out.”
Christie stressed if an agreement can’t be reached, the people of Atlantic City and other cities in New Jersey will “suffer from the speaker’s obstruction. It’s irresponsible. He has my number, he has an idea, call me. He’s never hesitated to before. But he doesn’t have any ideas. The one idea he had failed miserably.”
Minutes after Christie spoke, Prieto issued the following statement:
“The governor’s rhetoric is boring, tired and unproductive, and his refusal to act or compromise is putting Atlantic City at risk. The governor can preen all he wants, but while he does so the Assembly continues working toward a compromise. This is very simple - anyone who wants legislation to help Atlantic City better get the Assembly on board.”