Starting with Atlantic City, State Focus Should Return to Fiscally Responsible Management
By Harvey Roseff
For too long now, New Jerseyans have been subjected to a political nightmare with each Political Party pandering to its constituency. The New Jersey Taxpayer Association ("NJTA") asks for a return to prudent management and respect for the State taxpayer. It should start by the State exiting from any involvement with Atlantic City's plight.
Atlantic City's fiscal problems are local in nature. Without involving the State taxpayer, there exist proper State and Federal legal venues to resolve business disputes between creditors, employees and residents. It is irresponsible for State party politics to now insert itself and expose the State taxpayer to heavy burdens of distracted management focus, expensive legal actions and what always happens in the end, an unacceptable, uncalled-for State bailout packed with expensive contractors and professional legal "help".
Forty years ago, the State of New Jersey handed Atlantic City, a city endowed with an incredible gift from nature, an additional prize that most municipalities would die for - a windfall in the form of a statewide business monopoly (casinos). This came at the expense of the rest of the State and became quite a "cash cow".
How the State and local municipalities invested their individual takings from the "cash cow" is today of their respective responsibilities. On their own volition, each individually derived out-sized benefits and exposed themselves to future liabilities. Therefore, the State taxpayer should not be involved with Atlantic City's Master Plan, employee pay scales or bond debt responsibilities. Neither should Atlantic City residents and creditors have access to State taxpayers' pockets and free legal and professional help to pay for their choices. Each should re-prioritize and restructure without external interference and should not place burdens on outsiders.
NJTA is quite concerned that Atlantic City's unfortunate circumstance has led to a State partisan fight that will eventually attack the State taxpayer pocket. The State legislature and Governor should not be picking sides, nor adjudicating disputes, between local labor, management and creditor groups. The fact that this is happening only means the State taxpayer is being set up to pay for something that is fiduciarily wrong.
The State taxpayer doesn't need added burden that delivers nothing to their lives and communities. If the local parties can't resolve their business and financial issues, Atlantic City belongs in bankruptcy court - a venue that will not burden and tax the general State public to pay for a local dispute. Bankruptcy court has recently and well served Jefferson County, AL and California cities. It is bankruptcy court that was designed for the plight of Atlantic City, not so our legislative and executive branches. Don't now stack the deck against State taxpayers.
Harvey Roseff is the Vice President of the New Jersey Taxpayers Association. You can read more about the group and its work at njtaxes.org.