- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - State Senate President Steve Sweeney is threatening to introduce a bill that would have the state take over Atlantic City’s finances.

Sweeney, a Democrat from southern New Jersey, said Monday night the seaside gambling resort continues to struggle with budget problems and can’t seek state bailouts forever. He urged the city to sell assets including its water company and the former Bader Field airport site to raise money to help its budget.

Sweeney wouldn’t say when legislation might be introduced. But he said lawmakers are growing tired of the city’s requests for help.

“There’s Atlantic City fatigue in this building,” said Sweeney, who only hours earlier was defending his proposal for casinos in northern New Jersey as taking better care of Atlantic city than a rival measure in the Assembly that was discarded. “They can’t expect the state to bail them out.”

He said Atlantic City owns Bader Field, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and a water company worth $100 million.



“It’s like you have a house in foreclosure and you’re sitting on a pile of cash with assets you don’t want to sell,” he said. “Either they’re going to take it seriously or else we’re going to find a solution for them.”

A spokesman for Atlantic City’s Republican Mayor Don Guardian said the city is concerned about the threat.

“The Guardian administration has worked with everyone to make necessary cuts and hard decisions and will continue to do so,” spokesman Chris Filiciello said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what comes out of the legislative process, including what their definition of takeover is.”

Sweeney’s comments came hours after lawmakers reached a deal to seek a referendum on expanding casinos to northern new Jersey. Sweeney said he may introduce a bill as early as Tuesday to authorize a November ballot question on whether to build two new casinos in the northern part of the state. He would send half the gambling tax revenue those two new casinos would generate to Atlantic City.

But his tone when discussing a possible takeover bill was much harsher.

“This should be a wake-up call to Atlantic City,” he said. “Either you start working together or (Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s) administration and the Legislature is going to find a solution.”

Christie’s office had no comment Monday night. The governor, a presidential candidate, is due to deliver his State of the State address on Tuesday.

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Associated Press writer Michael Catalini contributed to this story.

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