During his annual fundraiser at Nanina’s in the Park yesterday, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) took some time to discuss the Atlantic City compromise and the role next year’s governor’s race played in the matter, as well as why the Transportation Trust Fund needs to come to the forefront now.
“[This is] what I’ve been striving for from the beginning of January,” Prieto said of the compromise measure that passed through the Assembly Judiciary committee on Monday.
“Having a compromise, getting a seat at the table, having the input, having the Assembly have input, making sure we treated Atlantic City fair, the people of Atlantic City – making sure they had an opportunity for self governance and that civil liberties were protected. Collective bargaining was protected, not the first thing on the chopping block.”
Prieto also denounced the concept of immediate state takeovers, noting that giving them 150 days to come up with a five-year budget will be a big help in AC becoming “the jewel of New Jersey” again.
When asked about what role gubernatorial politics played in the situation, with countless reports pitting Prieto and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop against Gov. Chris Christie (R), state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and South Jersey power broker George Norcross, Prieto dismissed the notion this was about politics.
“Listen, I can’t stop people thinking from whatever they think, there are conspiracy theories. I tell you, from day one, I was saying the same thing I’ve been saying today. I’ve told many reporters, I said ‘you ask me a question, I’ll give you an answer right here.’ I don’t check with anybody. I don’t corroborate with anybody,” he explained.
“This has been something that has been about doing the right thing. People like to inject gubernatorial politics because this way, it lays a blame that this was being done for the wrong reasons. This has been done for all the right reasons, it’s about the people of Atlantic City. It’s about making sure that we live in a great country in which are civil liberties are not something that should be taken for granted.”
Prieto made similar remarks in January as he and Sweeney were going toe-to-toe over how to bring casinos to North Jersey, claiming the Fulop vs. Sweeney dynamic, two all but guaranteed Democratic candidates for governor, “an illusion” created around the real issue.
With the Atlantic City issue likely settled, Prieto said his is now looking towards making moves towards stabilizing the Transportation Trust Fund and developing a sound budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
“Guess what? We need money for our Transportation Trust Fund. That’ll mean that will create jobs, fix our road infrastructure, and by creating jobs, it’ll stir our economy,” he stated.
“So that is important for us to get done. We have a budget we have to get done before the end of June 30th. So all these things, we need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
The full state Senate and Assembly are expected to vote on the Atlantic City rescue plan during tomorrow’s Legislative session.