AC Rescue Deal Still in the Works

By David Cruz

At separate events on the same subject today — a minimum wage bill set for a vote this week — Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney confirmed that an Atlantic City rescue bill is all but formalized, sort of. At the morning press conference, we asked Prieto where things stood.

“We’re trying to do it as quickly as possible. Like I said, after leadership met, staff is working on drafting the actual document,” Prieto said.

Which sounds like a bill is imminent, right? But here’s the other interpretation of where they are, from the Senate president.

“Well, you know, we’re talking. It’s in the interpretation. Me talking, him saying it’s being written, maybe it’s the same thing. I didn’t talk to him about that, but we’re talking,” Sweeney said.

At least we learned today from Sweeney who’s involved in the talks.

“The speaker and I and majority leader [Loretta] Weinberg, and budget chairman [Paul] Sarlo, majority leader [Lou] Greenwald and budget chair [Gary] Schaer have all had a conversation,” Sweeney said.

Talks on Atlantic City have been taking place for months now and with the city on the verge of defaulting on a number of major creditors, it’s half past the 11th hour. While some insiders say the deal is done, except for the minutiae, this drama has had its share of twists and turns and broken deals.

Then, there’s this guy, who threw a sideways glance at the thrust and parry of Sweeney and Prieto.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Gov. Chris Christie.

When asked if he has talked to the governor yet, Prieto said, “The governor is being keyed in on this to make sure of his input but obviously it takes the Senate president and myself to get a bill together to put onto his desk and that is what we’re striving for right now.”

“I’ve spoken to the governor on everything that we’ve been doing for one reason. I need the governor to sign the bill,” Sweeney said.

Today’s press events on the minimum wage bill also represented a rhetorical cooling down from both parties, with Prieto agreeing to amend his bill to match Sweeney’s.

“I am grateful for the Senate president’s leadership on this to be able to make it a reality to get it on the governor’s desk,” Prieto said. “One bill. They will be identical.”

“I do want to thank the speaker today for announcing he’s going to amend his bill to model the Senate bill and get it through his house, so I really do appreciate that support,” Sweeney said.

And that’s how you make peace in Trenton, one agreement at a time. Today a minimum wage bill? Tomorrow, Atlantic City. Maybe.