Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is being urged by several Democratic state lawmakers to post a bill that would allow a takeover of Atlantic City’s government by the state.
This weekend, a letter was sent to Prieto by Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, signed by twelve Assembly members from South Jersey. The letter cites the dangers that the city, which is moving closer to bankruptcy, would encounter if the legislation isn’t passed, such as city workers not being paid. Greenwald stated in the letter, “State government must be given the tools to implement the change of direction that is required to avoid disaster. That is why this legislation is required.” He went on to write, “These unprecedented circumstances force us to take equally unprecedented action, as reported by the Associated Press.
The measure is opposed by Prieto because it would give the state the ability to end collective bargaining agreements. The Christie administration has been called on by the speaker to negotiate a compromise. Concern has been voiced by Greenwald regarding Prieto’s next move if the Governor happens to refuse that offer. On Sunday, Prieto said he welcomes the input and that while everyone is concerned about the possibility of bankruptcy, the governor has more than enough power to stop that from happening. Prieto added, “I expect the governor to act and I expect to protect collective bargained rights.” Last week statements supporting Prieto’s stance in support of collective bargaining were released by several other Democrats, along with the state and national chapters of the AFL-CIO.
The takeover would mean most of Atlantic City’s power would be stripped and the state would be given the right to dissolve agencies, break contracts and sell off city assets and land. A bipartisan majority in the state Senate has already passed the takeover. Similar results are expected by Greenwald in the Assembly if the measure comes up for a vote. Greenwald said that he would not ask Prieto or any other legislator to drop their opposition to the bill.
Greenwald told Philly.com if the bill isn’t posted by Prieto, that he would meet with both party’s legislative leaders to consider measures necessary to getting the bill posted to protect Atlantic City, as well as other cities in similar circumstances.
According to the city, money will run out on April 8th, at which time police and firefighters will begin being paid with IOU’s. The city’s severe financial crisis is being made worse by the contraction of the casino industry, its largest taxpayer. Of the city’s 12 casinos, only eight remain after four went out of business in 2014.