ATLANTIC CITY -- New Jersey's Assembly speaker wants to add a $2 charge to each hotel room bill in Atlantic City to help prevent massive police and firefighter layoffs in the struggling gambling resort.

Shortly after Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration seized power in Atlantic City last fall, the state began seeking steep cuts in public safety, calling for as many as 100 firefighter layoffs and 27 in the police department.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Hudson County Democrat, introduced a bill Monday that would impose the additional surcharge on Atlantic City hotel bills, with the proceeds to be used exclusively to help fund police and fire operations. The charge would end after two years.

"I was adamant that any state takeover of Atlantic City not involve, among other things, police and firefighter layoffs that would threaten public safety and the city's efforts to market itself as a safe and family-friendly destination, but not everyone agreed," he said.

"The harsh reality is now setting in, sadly, but I will not stand idle and allow police and firefighter layoffs to harm public safety for residents while also hurting the public's ability to feel confident about visiting the city. Atlantic City must remain successful for the betterment of the entire state."

Prieto had no immediate estimate Tuesday of how much the measure might raise each year.

In December, city union officials revealed that the state, which seized power a month earlier, was seeking big cuts in public safety spending as part of a package of financial austerity measures designed to stabilize the nearly broke city's finances.

The state can now cancel decisions by the City Council, break union contracts, and seize and sell city assets.

A spokesman for Christie declined to comment on the bill. Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian had no immediate comment.

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