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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is gambling that the financially beleaguered Atlantic City will find its way back to prosperity — with a little help from the state.
The former Republican presidential contender has long been critical of the seaside resort town’s city fathers’ willingness to make the budget cuts necessary to avoid bankruptcy, and has pushed for broad state powers over the Atlantic City, according to The New York Times.
He signed a bill into law Friday that will give the city government time to work out its financial problems, and if it doesn’t, the state will take control.
“For Atlantic City officials, the final countdown starts today,” Mr. Christie, a Republican, said in a statement, according to The Times. “They know that if they fail to change their tendencies of wasteful spending and mismanagement, my administration will be empowered to immediately step in and do the job for them.”
The measure, which was approved by the legislature on Thursday, gives Atlantic City five months to hammer out a balanced 2017 budget as well as a five-year plan to achieve financial stability.
Atlantic City would also receive a state loan as well as payments from casinos as a part of the deal. The casino payments would be approximately $120 million during the first year, and increase each year after that by two percent for the following nine years.
Despite the loan and casino payments, Atlantic City will still have to make deep cuts in its spending by whatever means is necessary, including giving city workers early retirement packages.
Despite financial analysts’ skepticism of Atlantic City officials’ ability to make the cuts, Mayor Donald Guardian, a Republican, believes everyone is on board to fix the problem.
“It’s never easy to cut costs,” Guardian said in an interview. “We’ve been standing together for the last six months.”
City government officials, he said, were “looking under every stone to find ways we can either reduce costs or bring in income.”
He acknowledged that “it’s going to be a tough journey, but I think we’re going to be well-prepared and we’ll have some success.”
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