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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

They closed the casinos

Mary Godleski/Associated Press

The tables were empty at Caesar's Atlantic City
casino today, as a state shutdown forced casinos
and state parks closed.

N.J. Budget Crisis Shuts Down Casinos and Parks
Published: July 5, 2006

TRENTON, July 5 — The budget deadlock in New Jersey continued today, with Gov. Jon S. Corzine accusing legislators of putting politics above good government in an address to a joint session of the Legislature.

"This crisis has been brought about by a conflict of two competing approaches to our state's finances," Mr. Corzine said in the address today. In an apparent reference to the electoral losses suffered by Democrats after tax increases in the 1990's under Gov. Jim Florio, he said "Is a budget to be a political platform to seek re-election?"

Or is it to be a statement of priorities "with an honest and real way to pay for those priorities?"

Democratic legislators, who hold a majority in both houses of the Legislature, were meeting privately today, but no meeting of the Budget Committee had been scheduled. The Speaker of the General Assembly, Joseph J. Roberts Jr., was seen entering the governor's office about midafternoon, indicating that some discussions were continuing despite seemingly frozen positions.

Mr. Roberts, a former aide to Mr. Florio, said earlier that Mr. Corzine's plan to increase the sales tax was "dead" in the General Assembly. Mr. Roberts was an assemblyman in 1991 when the Democrats lost their majority as a result of the Florio tax increase.

The budget deadlock continued despite an unusual holiday session of the Legislature on Independence Day.

Meanwhile, Atlantic City's 12 casinos, which generate millions in revenue for the state, shut down gambling operations for lack of state officials to monitor operations. The state's 42 parks also closed.

Joseph A. Corbo Jr., the president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said in an interview televised on CNN that the hotels, bars and restaurants associated with casinos were still open, but that the operators of casino hotels would be monitoring the situation "hour to hour" to decide whether to lay off workers there depending on how many visitors stayed away from Atlantic City.

He said the shutdown was a blow "not only for our employees, but also for the citizens of New Jersey who benefit from the revenue they generate."

The budget crisis, which has furloughed all nonessential state employees, affected the casinos because state monitors must be present for gambling to be conducted legally.

Mr. Corbo's group had failed to persuade the courts to allow the casinos to stay open. But he said that since the state inspectors whose absence is forcing the closings are paid for by the casinos, he did not understand "why an exception couldn't have been made for our industry."

Governor Corzine, who ordered the state's 120 legislators to return to Trenton until a budget solution is reached, addressed a joint session of the Legislature this morning.

"Today is the fifth day since our constitutional deadline for passing a balanced budget has failed to be met," Mr. Corzine said. "I'll be brief. The time for speeches, posturing, political hardball have long since expired — as has fiscal '06's budget and the authority for the state to spend money. The issues are the same today as they were yesterday. The Senate and I have laid down a framework to put New Jersey's people back to work — a sensible and honest compromise to end this current crisis. It's time for leadership to act on that compromise or propose an acceptable alternative."

On Tuesday, lawmakers listened to governor make a 30-minute appeal, in which he emphasized his willingness to compromise with fellow Democrats in the Assembly over his proposal to increase the state sales tax, Speaker Roberts . declared that the governor's plan could not pass.

"We cannot make it any clearer today: the sales tax increase is dead in the General Assembly," Mr. Roberts said. "We need to move on to other alternatives and end this shutdown."

But in a day of dueling news conferences on Tuesday, Mr. Corzine and his aides continued to call for the passage of some version of a sales-tax increase, and Mr. Roberts again rejected a compromise proposal.

The Assembly doesn't get that there aren't really any alternatives left. They're afraid of the GOP retaking their seats, without accounting for it's weakeness. If you're going to raise taxes, this is the time to do it, away from an election. But the Assembly is going to take the heat off of Corzine by their stand.

If Tom Kean Jr was bright, he'd be all over TV hammering this.

He's not bright.

posted by Steve @ 5:35:00 PM

5:35:00 PM

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