Christie: Pass Atlantic City aid bills in Assembly now

   ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Gov. Chris Christie says time is running out for Atlantic City, and he's urging Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to let his chamber vote on two aid bills for the floundering resort.
 
   The Republican governor says he has a bipartisan agreement with Senate President Steve Sweeney on bills to take over the city's finances and allow its casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes. But Prieto won't put the measure up for votes in the Assembly unless Christie drops a provision letting New Jersey cancel public employee union contracts.
 
   "With the clock ticking, the Assembly speaker continues to play public sector union politics at the expense of the residents of Atlantic City and Atlantic County," said Brian Murray, a spokesman for the governor. "It's time for the games to end, and for Speaker Prieto to post the bill."
 
   Murray also cited editorials over the weekend in the Star-Ledger of Newark and the Press of Atlantic City that both urged a vote in the Assembly on the aid package.
 
   Tom Hester, a spokesman for Prieto, called Christie's comments "more juvenile gamesmanship by the governor," adding Prieto has long said Christie already has ample power to impose changes on Atlantic City.
 
   Prieto and Sweeney are both Democrats.
 
   The city says it will run out of money April 8 and will start paying police and firefighters with IOUs. It is dealing with a severe financial crisis that is being worsened by the contraction of its largest taxpayer, the casino industry; four of the city's 12 casinos went out of business in 2014.
 
   But Christie and other critics say Atlantic City has spent its way into trouble over decades, and promise they will not keep writing checks to bail it out.
 
   The back-and-forth came on the same day that Assembly members Ralph Caputo and Valerie Vainieri Huttle, both Democrats from northern New Jersey, called on Christie to negotiate a resolution to Atlantic City's financial crisis with Prieto and others. Christie says he will veto the bills if any changes are made to them.
 
   Yet Caputo noted that the Senate has amended one of the bills to let casinos back out of the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes bill if casino gambling is expanded to the northern New Jersey suburbs. 
 
   "Speaker Prieto has continuously expressed an interest in sitting down and working out a compromise that still protects Atlantic City's future without trampling on the rights of the public workers who put their life on the line every day," Caputo said. "The governor should take him up on this offer."
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