Chris Christie and the Takeover of Atlantic City

Here’s a campaign video claiming that Chris Christie is at least partly responsible for New Jersey’s alleged economic revival:

I’m sure Chris Christie did some good things. As someone who was ambitious for higher office, he would be motivated to provide a legacy in New Jersey.

Nevertheless, his record is mixed. Bloomberg reports,

After almost five years of piecemeal efforts to fix Atlantic City, New Jersey’s distressed seaside resort faces more drastic measures: the end of its casino monopoly and a state takeover or bankruptcy filing.

On the line is the future of a city that Governor Chris Christie once said was crucial to New Jersey’s recovery. Once the second-largest U.S. gambling market, Atlantic City has seen its key industry crumble as day-trip patrons shift to newer, closer casinos in nearby Pennsylvania and New York.

The decline has sapped municipal tax collections. While state aid helped plug a gap this year, the city of 39,000 faces a shortfall of $90 million next year, a third of its budget. The dire straits have led New Jersey officials to bring to the forefront options that have been discussed for months, if not years. The new initiatives spurred a rally for the city’s debt.

Lawmakers this week agreed to ask voters in November to expand gambling to northern New Jersey and share the revenue with Atlantic City. They’ve also proposed taking control of its finances for 15 years. Senate President Steve Sweeney, the highest-ranking Democratic legislator, said the city should declare bankruptcy if the takeover isn’t approved quickly.

“This is a very clear statement to Atlantic City: Get your act together, knock off the B.S. and start addressing what you need to address,” Sweeney told reporters Tuesday at the Statehouse in Trenton. “The state is not going to come in and bail you out any more. You need to fix this.”

[See also, “From Debt to Despotism: The Lesson of the Christie Takeover.”]

In other words, they are kicking the can down the road a bit in the hope of a miracle because they don’t want to admit that Atlantic City’s problems are unfixable. Expanding gambling and sending some of the revenue to Atlantic City is another bailout.

Christie, a second-term Republican running for president, in February 2011 kicked off a five-year turnaround plan based on tax incentives, marketing, a state-run tourism district and a push for more non-gambling businesses. In 2014, four of 12 casinos closed. The city was downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service to junk; Standard & Poor’s followed in January 2015.

This doesn’t sound to me like the actions of a man who will do what it takes to save the American economy if he was to become President.