As expected, the Hudson County members of the state Assembly, all Democrats, are standing behind Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and urging Gov. Chris Christie (R) to reach a compromise to help Atlantic City overcome their massive $437 million debt.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“It’s unfortunate that Gov. Christie is excluding half of the legislature from this conversation because during a crisis we should not be shutting the door on new ideas. But, if you look at the road that got us here, it’s riddled with confounding decisions on the part of the Governor,” said Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-32).
“First he vetoed the bills we sent him, with the changes he specifically requested – bills that would’ve helped Atlantic City avoid the fiscal cliff in the first place. He has ignored the fact that he already has a host of tools at his disposal to help Atlantic City.”
Jimenez, Prieto’s running mate added that Christie didn’t seem to have any concerns about Atlantic City while he was running for president, yet now wants “the right to disenfranchise voters and trample on collective bargaining rights.”
Prieto has previously said that he will not authorize a state takeover of Atlantic City because it would suspend the current collective bargaining agreements.
“I wholeheartedly support the efforts of Speaker Prieto to ensure that the Assembly has a voice on the future of Atlantic City. As the Speaker of the Assembly, he deserves a place at the table in these discussions and should not be expected to just be a rubber stamp,” added Annette Chaparro (D-33) in a separate statement.
This morning, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (both D-31) were both harsh in their assessments of the situation.
“It is inexplicable why the governor refuses to use the powers afforded to him under current law to help Atlantic City,”
“The fact that he’s not even willing to sit down and discuss the possibility that there might be a better way to repair the city’s financial woes is insulting not just to this legislative body, but to the residents who expect more level-headed behavior from the state’s top official,” McKnight said.
Prieto said last week that under Title 52, Christie has had the authority to intervene in Atlantic City without any further legislation being passed.
“Speaker Prieto has essentially done the governor’s work for him, and shown that there is a way to help the struggling resort town without stomping on the rights of public workers and circumventing the people that were chosen by Atlantic City residents to represent them,” Chiaravalloti stated.
“And yet the governor continues to reject any resolution that deviates from his own, and insists on a takeover that is unnecessary and, given the state’s track record with this approach, risks doing more harm than good.
“Now is the time to work together.”
Furthermore, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) threw his support behind Prieto on Wednesday.
At a press conference yesterday, Christie said that he will campaign against casinos in North Jersey if the Atlantic City takeover bill does not pass (h/t Politico New Jersey).
The governor has made the feud personal, referring to Prieto as the “water boy” for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop – who he claims is the boss of almost everyone in Hudson County. Christie has insisted that Fulop is fighting his political battle against Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) through the Assembly Speaker.
Fulop and Prieto both dismissed the notion as an “obsession” the governor has with Fulop, who is expected to square off with Sweeney in next year’s Democratic primary in the governor’s race.