POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Asm. Bramnick: NJ Must Help AC Before Allowing Other Casinos

We have word that a Hard Rock casino could be headed for the Meadowlands. Hard Rock and Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment are pushing hard to get it on the November ballot. Meadowlands Racetrack owner Jeff Gural promised the casino could create 10,000 jobs. And the state could make some $400 million a year from more than 50 percent tax on winnings. Lowering property taxes is a selling point aimed squarely at seniors, who vote. And telling Atlantic City voters it could fund their rebuilding efforts could take the sting out of ending Atlantic City’s casino monopoly in the state. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that lawmakers must help Atlantic City before deciding to open casinos in other parts of New Jersey.

Bramnick said there’s no bill or proposal on the table currently regarding allowing casinos in places other than Atlantic City. “What we do have to do is help Atlantic City. And Assemblyman Chris Brown down there is leading the effort. And what he’s doing is he’s making sure that we bring back Atlantic City to some place that it can survive. And that’s gotta be the energy,” Bramnick said.

Instead of siphoning money from Atlantic City, Bramnick said the state has to try to help the city. “We cannot let Atlantic City simply die and move on without facing the issues we have in Atlantic City. And that’s what the governor’s doing and that’s what Assemblyman Chris Brown is doing,” he said.

Those proposing the change say some of the tax money collected could go toward rebuilding Atlantic City. While Bramnick said that he likes that idea, he pointed out that there is nothing for legislators to review at this time.

Bramnick applauded Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to make changes by appointing a manager to start making cuts to the city’s budget. “There’s been expenditures by the city of Atlantic City, before the new Mayor Don Guardian came in. It was out of control. Don Guardian came in, worked really hard, tremendous mayor. Let’s give Atlantic City at least a chance before we write it off,” he said.

Another area of contention in the state is the pension system. Bramnick said the Assembly is behind going toward a 401K style retirement plan in place of the current pension system. “That’s the way every private sector business is going, that’s the way that states have to go in the future,” he said, adding, “That does not mean that we’re not going to keep our promise to people in the pension program and that’s why we have to continue to look at reforms.”

When asked what will happen if the state Supreme Court decides New Jersey has to adhere to the deal cut in 2011, Bramnick said, “Well the state Supreme Court’s going to have to tell us where to get the money. And I have to tell you it’s not gonna be easy in two weeks in a budget session to find billions of dollars.”

Bramnick said the current budget has no new taxes thanks to Christie and many members of the Legislature. “We are giving more money to schools, education, than we’ve ever done. And we’re giving $1.3 billion to the pension. That’s good bipartisan work. I think it’s an excellent program,” he said.

He also said there is enough money to cover everything in the budget “as long as everybody acts reasonably” and that he believes the state is “on goal” with projections.