- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - Proposed tax breaks to help Atlantic City’s eight casinos would be eliminated under a plan proposed Wednesday by a Republican state assemblyman.

Chris Brown’s proposal would freeze Atlantic City taxes for five years at 2014 levels on all taxable property, including casinos. It also would retain a multimillion-dollar marketing effort for the resort through the Atlantic City Alliance, help ease county taxes and redirect some redevelopment tax revenue to help Atlantic City’s municipal finances.

But it would not include a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program proposed by state Senate President Steve Sweeney. Brown said that plan, which would reduce taxes on some of the larger casinos by as much as $10 million a year, would increase county taxes on property owners by $9 million a year.

“Under the proposed PILOT plan, only casinos get a tax break,” Brown said. “Our middle class is working harder and longer, but earning less. It’s not fair to ask our middle class families to pay more, while casinos owned by big corporations pay less than their fair share.”

Sweeney’s proposed PILOT plan would exempt casinos from property taxes for 15 years. The casinos would collectively pay $150 million a year for the first two years, then $120 million a year for the next 13, assuming that gambling revenue stays within certain ranges.

Sweeney’s plan would also eliminate the Atlantic City Alliance and use its $30 million annual budget to help the city in other ways. It is up for final votes Thursday in both houses of the Legislature and could be on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk by the end of the day.

Richard McGrath, a spokesman for Sweeney, accused Atlantic County Republicans of offering no ideas in the three months since the first Atlantic City summit was held, and proposing “a fake plan with nothing to back it up” the day before Sweeney’s package was up for a final vote.

Brown’s plan also would bar casinos from opening in northern New Jersey.

It would require unspecified cuts to Atlantic City’s budget; require the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to make a $5 million payment in lieu of taxes to the city and direct $10 million of casino investment alternative taxes to the city; split $25 million in unused CRDA grant money between the city and Atlantic County for tax relief; divert $7.5 million from the Atlantic City Alliance’s $30 million annual budget to the city, and use $15 million in CRDA funds to develop non-gambling attractions in the city.

Four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos have closed so far this year, and the Trump Taj Mahal is scheduled to join them Saturday.

Wayne Parry can be reached at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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