Economic problems plaguing Atlantic City could haunt New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie if he decides to make a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Politico
With unemployment statewide at 6.2 percent — higher than the 5.7 percent national average — and joblessness in Atlantic City itself hovering at 17.8 percent, Christie's financial stewardship of the state might have national political ramifications.
Atlantic City, a beachside vacation resort about three hours away from New York City by bus, was one of the first locales outside of Las Vegas to legalize gambling. Its first casino went into operation in 1978.
By 2014, though, four of its 12 casinos had closed, depriving the city of nearly 11,000 jobs. The resort area has become crime-ridden with violent offenses, though now declining, among the highest in the state, Politico reported.
Christie's decision to appoint an emergency manager for Atlantic City is widely unpopular, though some see it as an example of an executive willing to make tough decisions.
The state is also facing a $3 billion budget gap in fiscal year 2015. Its credit worthiness has been downgraded six times since Christie became governor, according to Politico.
The governor's popularity is at an all-time low of 37 percent, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll
even as he has sought to put the Bridgegate scandal
When Pennsylvania legalized gambling in 2004, Atlantic City lost its East Coast gaming monopoly. As tourism to the resort began to decline so did state tax revenue. Atlantic City's boardwalk also took a hit from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Politico reported.
Plans afoot to open casinos in upstate New York further threaten Atlantic City's prospects.
"Atlantic City's economy is all built on gaming, and when that industry goes away, when a competitor opens in your backyard, that can be devastating to the local economy as well as [to local] property taxes," Tracy Gordon of the Urban Institute's Tax Policy Center told Politico.
The city has depended heavily on property taxes for its revenue, with casinos the main source of its tax base. Now, the percentage of casino-generated tax revenue is projected to decline to below 50 percent. Ordinary homeowners can't pick up the burden of increased property taxes, according to Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, Politico reported.
"I think you have to look at where New Jersey started. New Jersey was economically a wreck; Christie inherited an absolute mess," said Christie political adviser Michael DuHaime, noting that unemployment stood at 9.7 percent in 2010 when Christie became governor.
DuHaime also told Politico that the Democratic-controlled legislature has blocked Christie from cutting income taxes.
Observers agree that Christie did not create the economic problems New Jersey faces, but he will likely be held accountable for not having fixed them, according to Market Watch
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