Atlantic City Nearer Bankruptcy As Aid Effort Crashes

TRENTON (AP) -

Atlantic City is closer than ever to having to file for bankruptcy after state lawmakers’ efforts to help it crashed and burned Thursday.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto canceled a voting session at which his version of an Atlantic City rescue bill was to be up for a vote after weeks of promising he had the votes to pass it. He said he would try again to write a new bill by Wednesday.

Gov. Chris Christie and other officials said bankruptcy appeared to be a more likely threat to the teetering resort now that the Legislature is unable to agree on a rescue package.

“Bankruptcy is preferential to continuing to kick the can down the road,” Christie said. “Not preferred, but preferable to continuing to write checks.”

The governor said Thursday the city has about 10 days of cash left. He also said he will not lend or give the city any more money until the state passes legislation giving him the power to take control of Atlantic City’s finances and major decision-making power.

The bills differ in how long they would give Atlantic City to stabilize its finances before the state would take over. Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s bill, which is backed by Christie, gives Atlantic City 130 days to shape up, while Prieto’s would give two years.

In the meantime, Atlantic City’s circumstances grow more dire. “T.J.” Moynihan, head of the police union, said workers are feeling the strain.

“It’s been really stressful,” he said. “We haven’t been paid in a month; we finally get paid tomorrow, which will be great. But to add this stress on top of the jobs we already do, putting our lives on the line, it’s really frustrating.”

Prieto has refused to back the Senate bill since it would allow the state to break union contracts.