Atlantic City, N.J. rescue package goes back to Gov. Christie

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 07, 2016 5:09 PM

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday approved changes requested by Governor Chris Christie to legislation aimed at helping stabilize Atlantic City, the state's financially distressed gambling hub.

Christie vetoed the package of bills at the last minute in November, after they sat on his desk for months during his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

In his veto message, Christie said the bills did not require enough accountability on the city's part and failed to establish a true path to economic revitalization.

Among other changes he required to the trio of bills, the state, not the city, will have initial control over $30 million of casino payments to the city in lieu of taxes for two years.

In addition, the state could withhold that funding if the city does not agree to certain changes under a financial recovery plan. Overall, the payment-in-lieu program will last 15 years.

That bill aims to stabilize the city's property tax base, which has been eviscerated as casino values dwindled because of increasing gambling competition from neighboring states.

The other bills reallocate an alternative tax to pay the city's debt service costs and redirect money used for marketing to the city's coffers instead.

With the state Senate's approval on Thursday, the changes now go back to the governor, who is scheduled to be in New Jersey on Tuesday for his State of the State address.

"The governor knows exactly what's in these bills - there should be no delay in signing them," Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, a Democrat whose district includes Atlantic City, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Chris Reese)