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Poll: Is Christie Making the Wrong Bet on Atlantic City Bankruptcy?

Is there a better way to steer the gaming and seaside resort through its seemingly endless fiscal problems?

Gov. Chris Christie earlier this week decided not to approve legislation aimed at helping Atlantic City balance its municipal budget amid a worsening fiscal crisis. A spokesman for Christie yesterday said the governor rejected the measures because city officials haven’t made enough progress on their own streamlining spending and sorting out waste.

Now city officials have said they may have no choice but to declare bankruptcy, an outcome lawmakers say would be bad for New Jersey and bad for other cities i facing budget difficulties. Instead, they’ve pressed for a temporary state takeover of the resort's finances, something city officials so far have resisted.

The situation is urgent. A report compiled by a special emergency manager that Christie hired says Atlantic City only has enough cash to make it to April.

What should happen next?

  • Let’s face it, Atlantic City has been a mess for years and bankruptcy has been long overdue. Declaring bankruptcy will let the city restructure debt and get out from under expensive labor deals with police and firefighters that were worked out under much better economic circumstances. And if casino operators also take a hit so be it, they haven’t helped make things better.

  • The state needs to step up and do its part. For decades the casinos in Atlantic City served as a cash cow, providing millions in revenue not only for the state budget but also for redevelopment projects all over New Jersey. For the state to now turn its back on Atlantic City is wrong. Lawmakers need to force Christie to provide the necessary aid to the city and also let the efforts of the emergency manager go forward.

  • It’s time for a state takeover. Bankruptcy would hurt the state’s already low credit rating and take away all local control from city leaders. But under a state takeover, officials in Trenton can make the hard decisions and approve state funding that could within a few years put Atlantic City on much better fiscal footing. And expanding casino gambling into North Jersey, which lawmakers have also proposed, could provide a much-needed source of revenue for the city going forward.

  • There are drastic changes that can be made in Atlantic City that wouldn’t require a state takeover, bankruptcy, or taxpayers having to come up with even more cash to bail out a city with a history of poor leadership. For starters, sell off city-owned assets and let the county government take over as many departments as possible. Lay off more employees and regionalize police and fire services.

  • Who cares? Things are so far gone with Atlantic City it really doesn’t matter what happens next. The best option at this point is to do whatever is possible to protect the surrounding communities from going down with the ship. Let the free market determine what happens next.

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