New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie allowed legislation to create an Atlantic City financial rescue package to lapse, leaving the struggling gambling hub at risk of running out of cash by April.
The Republican governor had until noon Tuesday to take action on the legislation. Without his signature the package dies.
Atlantic City's 2015 budget adopted in September relied on $33.5 million in anticipated revenues from redirected casino taxes included in the rescue bills to address a $101 million deficit. A Jan. 15 report released by Atlantic City Emergency Manager Kevin Lavin said cash flow would run out by the start of April absent approval of the rescue bills.
Christie did not issue a statement on his decision to not sign the bills and a spokeswoman referred to comments he made Saturday while campaigning for president in Iowa when asked about the legislation.
"When legislation comes to my desk I'll review it and think if in total it makes sense I'll do it and if I don't think the total package makes sense, I won't," said Christie Saturday. "I've been in regular conversations with the Senate President and the Speaker for the last 10 days to try reach some accommodation on this."
The press office for Atlantic City Mayor Donald Guardian did not immediately respond for comment on Christie's decision.
The proposed rescue package, which was approved in the New Jersey Legislature on Jan. 8 after Christie conditionally vetoed a previous version in November, would have enabled the city's eight remaining casinos to enter into a payment-in-lieu of taxes program for 15 years and aggregately pay $120 million annually over 15 years instead of a traditional property tax. An additional bill would have reallocated the state's casino alternative tax to pay debt service on Atlantic City-issued municipal bonds. Atlantic City would have also had an opportunity to receive $60 million in funding directed to the city's marketing arm, the Atlantic City Alliance for 2015 and 2016 had Christie signed the legislation.
State Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo lashed out at Christie in a statement following the veto.
"It's becoming more clear every day that the Governor's complete and utter lack of ideas defines his abandoned leadership of this state," said Mazzeo, D-Northfield, whose district encompasses Atlantic City and Atlantic County. "Despite the Governor's mismanagement, I am committed to moving forward and finding a resolution to the challenges we face in Atlantic County to restore economic security to our region."
The uncertainty of the rescue aid puts a state takeover bill proposed by Senate President Steve Sweeney on Jan. 13 more into focus. Sweeney wants the state to assume management of Atlantic City's finances and said if the legislature does act soon he will support a bankruptcy declaration.
Atlantic City is rated Caa1 by Moody's Investors Service and B by Standard & Poor's. The city saw four of its 12 casinos shuttered in 2014.