TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Atlantic City runs out of money to run its government in a matter of days.

Whether that actually happens depends, in large part, on a vote scheduled for Thursday in the New Jersey Assembly.

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The body is scheduled to vote on a bailout plan offered by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson Counties) that would phase in a state takeover, and forestall any impact on union contracts for two years. It is a plan Governor Chris Christie has vowed to veto, insisting he will only approve a package that has already passed the state senate in bipartisan fashion.

On the eve of the vote, Senate President Steve Sweeney met with reporters in Trenton urging action on the compromise worked out with Christie. Sweeney says Atlantic City officials from Mayor Don Guardian on down have proven time and again they are unwilling to make serious changes to municipal government on everything from shared services to tow truck operations to management of the city’s water authority.

“Every year  they start out 80 to 100 million dollars a year in the hole. Every single year,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester County) said. “That’s when you know things have gone horribly wrong.”

Sweeney predicted the city will fall into bankruptcy without immediate action and while he has offered compromises to Prieto, one in public and another in private, time is running short.

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“I don’t think he has the votes to pass it in the Assembly, and if he doesn’t he should out my bill up and pass my bill,” Sweeney said. “What would happen if his bill passed? The Governor’s already said he won’t sign it.”

But Sweeney declined to answer questions about whether he’s put the Assembly version up for a vote in the Senate should that measure be approved.

The Speaker issued a press release shortly after Sweeney’s press conference, insisting he will only put his bill up for a vote and not the Senate version. Prieto denies any existence of a private compromise offer and says the only public compromise he’s seen has been in the media.

Prieto added “I’m also not the one repeatedly talking about politics. This is all about policy, and the compromise bipartisan Assembly bill remains the right choice.”

 

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