State Taking Atlantic City to Court as Money Crisis Deepens

TRENTON (AP) -

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took aim at two of his favorite targets Monday — public employee unions and Atlantic City’s municipal government — in insisting his is the only way to fix the finances of the nearly broke seaside gambling resort.

The Republican governor directed his education commissioner to sue the city to prevent it from making a payroll payment Friday because he said it owes its school district $34 million through July.

The lawsuit increases the pressure on Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, a Republican, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to support a financial takeover of the city by the state. Christie and Democratic Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney support the measure, but Prieto has refused to post it for a vote because he said it could allow the state to end collective bargaining agreements.

“What I’m looking to do now is manage a series of bad situations,” Christie said at a statehouse news conference. “I think the situation is ratcheting up the pressure on all of us.”

Atlantic City’s city council will vote Wednesday on converting workers to a 28-day pay period, which would keep city government functioning after the city runs out of money on Friday. The state’s lawsuit could put that plan into question.

Christie said Prieto cares more about public employee unions than he does about Atlantic City’s school children because the speaker continues to refuse to allow a vote on two bills seen as crucial to relieving the fiscal crisis.

“The speaker has put himself in line with public sector unions,” Christie said. “This administration is putting itself in line with the people of Atlantic City. If they want to test me, they can test me.”