We’re Confident In Our Casino Revenue Estimates Says State Treasurer [AUDIO]
The lead budget analyst with the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS), research arm of the legislature predicts casino revenues will increase by $20 million in the coming year while Governor Chris Christie's projects they'll rise by $40 million.
Why so far apart? Every dollar counts in a State Budget because in theory at least, the more New Jersey collects from other sources the less it needs to take from you.
Christie has announced plans to revitalize Atlantic City through the creation of as special district, an increase in public safety dollars and an additional investment through the Casino Redevelopment Authority. State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff says the Administration has faith in those plans and in the success of the newly opened Revel.
"I think we're kind of closer to it than our colleagues at OLS and as a function of that I think we are more confident that Revel and the other kinds of things that are happening in Atlantic City will yield additional revenue next year," explains Sidamon-Eristoff. "It's a question of degree, clearly but we think that there's a lot of excitement out there.
Atlantic City's casinos poured almost a quarter billion dollars into the State Budget last year. The more the state rakes in from the casinos the more cash it will have on hand to fund other programs without having to tax you more.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli asks, "What's the right number here so we can budget accordingly?" He says, "I think these numbers are optimistic at best….Atlantic City's success is New Jersey's success and although we're optimistic the question is; do we have the right number?"
"We look at the changes and we've concluded that there's good reason to expect a higher rate of revenue growth," says Sidamon-Eristoff. "They (OLS) take a somewhat more restrained point of view in looking at the same underlying factors. We're a little bit closer to it. The Administration obviously has been front and center on the developments in Atlantic City. We respect our friends at OLS and time will tell where things shake out in the end, but I think we all share a sense of excitement that Atlantic City really is making a strong comeback."
Dr. David Rosen, the top budget expert with OLS isn't even confident in his own projection. He says, "It's based on the new casino (Revel) as well as the expectation of an improved economy, but of all our forecast numbers that's the one that I'm most worried about. That it's overly optimistic."
The Governor is standing by his estimates. "There are two things OLS has proven in this area: One is being wrong, and two is following whatever the agenda is of the majority of the Legislature," says Christie. "Last year when the Legislature wanted to spend more, they said I said we didn't have enough money. They turned out to be wrong about that. Now this year when I want to cut taxes, they say we don't have enough money."
Democratic Senate Budget Committee chairman, Paul Sarlo says, "I think none of us are convinced that you're going to see such an upswing in people (visiting Atlantic City casinos)."
Revenue from Atlantic City's casinos is dedicated to prescription programs for seniors and transportation for the disabled. If the casinos don't ship enough in taxes to the state, other funds within the State Budget would have to be diverted to keep the programs going and that means budget holes will start appearing elsewhere.
"This money is very important money to our budget," explains Burzichelli. "Although Atlantic City sits in one place, the money coming out of Atlantic City goes everywhere in the state."