An Atlantic City Deal Appears Close, Or Not, Depending on Who You Talk To

By David Cruz

It says a lot about how the Atlantic City rescue talks have been going that interpretations of the progress of those talks can be so wildly divergent. To wit: these two reactions to our questions about closed door meetings that resumed today. Here’s Senate President Steve Sweeney and Speaker Vincent Prieto.

“We’re starting to talk, but we’re where we’re at. Hopefully we can find a solution,” sighed Sweeney. “I think everyone wants to find one, so hopefully we’ll come up with one shortly.”

Prieto avoided reporters after the afternoon caucus. “It was a great meeting, and we had great dialogue and it started the day,” he said.

There were reports that Sweeney and Prieto had met with other Democratic leaders this morning but neither would confirm that. Sweeney wasn’t at the afternoon caucus, but those who were emerged with renewed optimism.

“The TTF was handled. Everything was handled. It’s all good,” chuckled Assemblyman Raj Mukherji. “We made good progress in the discussions. I’m optimistic that we’re going to have a resolution to this. I can’t say when. It’s above my pay grade.”

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo said there was no deal but “it looks like this is coming to a close … and it looks very promising.”

Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie have expressed frustration with the speaker, especially after he floated the option of bankruptcy this week. The frustration has spread among some Democrats, and talk about the need for a leadership change in the Assembly have started to grow louder, although no one will talk on the record about it. Some Republicans expressed concern about the lasting effects of the tone of the Atlantic City debate.

“This is Game of Thrones, New Jersey edition,” joked Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi. “The White Walkers are currently eating half the people in Trenton and yet they’re still fighting amongst themselves, so do I think that there’s currently the potential that that sort of maneuvering has been going on? Absolutely; we all hear the rumors but right now that’s all they are, rumors and speculation.”

“It’s a little bit juvenile to see two grown men, actually more than two grown men, sniping at each other and for no particular reason,” added Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll. “I have great respect for Speaker Prieto and President Sweeney but they should sit down and come up with a plan that suits all of the interests of their caucus. After all they’re in the majority.”

Carroll said he expects that, if it came right down to it, Republicans in the lower house would probably back Prieto, but it’s presumed that if there is an Atlantic City deal, all this acrimony will be ultimately be forgotten. But the deal itself, remains a big if.