By Hilary Russ
(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday vetoed a bill considered critical to stabilizing Atlantic City's tax base and essential for the cash flow of the distressed gambling hub.
The legislation called for casinos to make fixed payments in lieu of taxes and would have added a measure of stability to the city's rapidly shrinking property tax base.
Lawmakers first passed it in June. Nearly five months later, Christie vetoed it but said he would consider signing it with certain changes he required.
The Democrat-led legislature then amended the measure, which was part of a package of bills, passed it, made yet more changes and passed it once more. Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, also declined to sign the other bills in the package on Tuesday.
The city's emergency manager Kevin Lavin, appointed by Christie a year ago, said in a report on Friday that without the revenues generated in that package, the city's cash flow would run dry by April.
Lawmakers, who have proposed a complete takeover of the city, would now have to reintroduce the bills if they want to continue pushing for them.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, whose district includes Atlantic City, said in a statement that Christie's vetoes show a "brazen disregard" for Atlantic City's fiscal recovery and said he would move forward on measures to restore the region's economic security.
A spokesman for Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Asked for an explanation of why Christie vetoed the bills, his office referred to comments he made on Saturday, when he was in Iowa campaigning.
"If I don't think the total package makes sense, I won't (sign it)," he said, according to the remarks. He has been discussing with legislative leaders about "some accommodation on this."
The Casino Association of New Jersey said that "this process has dragged on too long, and the city and its residents and businesses are suffering as a result of lawmakers' inability to get this done."
The uncertainty was bad for the city and the industry and was sending the wrong message to Wall Street, which could disrupt investment plans that would help the city's revitalization, the group said.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; editing by Nick Zieminski and Phil Berlowitz)