Christie: Atlantic City mayor, Assembly leader playing ‘chicken’ over takeover bill
Gov. Chris Christie said Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto are playing a game of "chicken" as the city's "drop dead" date of April 8 approaches.
City officials have said the resort community will run out of money on that date but are resisting state take-over efforts.
Speaking with Thursday morning with host Harry Hurley on New Jersey 101.5 sister station WPG Talk Radio 1450, Christie said he will not change his view that he needs the takeover bills agreed to by Guardian, Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney on his desk in their original form.
"If I take off the table the ability to renegotiate public sector union contracts, which is what the speaker is proposing, I take away one of the important authorities we need to be able to balance this budget and to make Atlantic City fiscally responsible. And I'm not going to do the job with one hand tied behind my back. I'm not going to doom this to failure before we start."
Christie said the state has supported Atlantic City financially in every way that it could over the past couple of years but said it would be "irresponsible of me (and) for the people who pay taxes across the state" to simply send a check and count on the city government that has been unable to control itself.
Guardian has said that if his municipality doesn’t receive state aid immediately he will be forced to shut down City Hall and all non-essential services for almost a month starting April 8. Police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers will have to wait to get paid until May, which is when the city expects its coffers to be replenished with property tax revenues.
Christie said he respects the sovereignty of Atlantic City but cited its unwillingness to control its costs as one reason the city is its dire financial situation. He blamed previous administrations for helping create a city that is 2-3 times more expensive to run than other New Jersey cities.
Christie said the ratings agencies responded poorly to Guadian's "ill advised" criticism of the proposed takeover plan and pointed out that they support the takeover along with legislators from both sides of the political aisle. "This is individual personal politics being played by the Speaker and by the mayor," said Christie, who said he intends to be a "firm hand" to bring the city's finances under control.
David Matthau contributed to this report