- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Legislation to help a struggling Atlantic City stalled since late last year appears headed for a vote in the state Legislature next month.

The five-bill package includes a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan that lawmakers hope will stabilize the city’s key revenue stream, which has been falling since the closure of four of the resort town’s 12 casinos last year. Lawmakers also say casinos have successfully appealed their tax assessment, resulting in less income for the city.

The city of 40,000 residents has seen taxable property drop from $20.5 billion to $7.3 billion over the past five years.

Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo said Tuesday the legislation will get a vote on June 11 in the Assembly and on June 25 in the Senate. Mazzeo cited the July 1 start of the fiscal year and said lawmakers could not afford to wait longer to act.

The bills were introduced last year, and Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney had called on Republican Gov. Chris Christie to embrace the package, but the governor has said he would wait for the bills to reach his desk before signing off on them.

Sweeney praised Mazzeo and Democratic state Sen. Jim Whelan, the Senate sponsor, and said Christie needs “to get off the sidelines and get this done.”

Christie had appointed a team of emergency managers, and their report released earlier this year called for municipal layoffs and spending cuts. Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts indicated the governor wants to combine the Legislature’s proposal with that of the emergency managers.

Mazzeo said it was his “sincere hope” that the governor will sign “these important and historic pieces of legislation” when they reach his desk.

The package also includes provisions to reallocate a tax on casino gambling revenues to Atlantic City for debt payments. Another authorizes state aid to the city’s schools. Another requires casinos to provide certain workers with health and retirement benefits, and the fifth would end the Atlantic City Alliance, the town’s marketing arm.

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