Senator Chris Connors answers questions about Senator Frank Whelan’s bill to shift property tax burdens
Recently, the Galloway Patriot decided to ask Senator Connors (the State Senator for Galloway Township and Port Republic – Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf, Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove, Representing the 9th Legislative District), a few questions about the bill presented to the legislature on the issue of Atlantic City’s intent to shift its property tax burden to surrounding communities. Local residents feel as if they are being victimized by the mismanagement of Atlantic City and its casinos.
Question #1: The recent bill put before the state legislature by Senator Whelan seeks to shift an enormous amount of property tax burden from Atlantic City to surrounding communities like Galloway and Port Republic by substantially reducing the property tax requirements of the casinos and having others pay the difference. Where do you stand on this issue?
Response: Only if it is determined to be clearly beneficial to the taxpayers of Galloway and Port Republic will our Delegation vote for any component of an Atlantic City-bill package. Accordingly, we will examine the tax impact on our constituent municipalities while, at the same time, considering input provided by local and county officials in serving the interests of our mutual constituents. Too much is at stake for local taxpayers to allow for any grey area in the legislation that is ultimately considered on Atlantic City ’s future.
Question #2: Many Galloway and Port Republic residents would like to see Atlantic City provide the jobs and positive economic stimulus promised by the casinos but it is obvious, that after years of mismanagement by both the City’s government and the casino operators, Atlantic City has become more of a detriment to the area then a benefit. How does the city move forward from here without cutting more jobs and becoming a bigger burden to the surrounding area?
Response: First, Atlantic City must stabilize its own government finances, which can be achieved through spending reductions, streamlining services to achieve greater efficiencies and other reforms. Mayor Guardian has been out in front of this issue since first taking office and, appropriately, has received accolades for his ongoing efforts. High taxes and an ineffective local government are never conducive to attracting new businesses or, for that matter, retaining existing locally-based businesses. While we believe that the casino industry will still play a substantial role, there is a strong consensus among policy makers, officials and area residents that Atlantic City diversify its economy. This diversification must include transitioning from an economy based heavily on casino-related business to one that plays to the City’s strengths including, but not limiting, serving as an top-tier entertainment/event venue as well as a beachfront destination.
Question #3: Do you believe that Stockton-University’s purchase of the Showboat will benefit the community?
Response: Unequivocally yes. The establishment of a Stockton campus is consistent with the needed and supported transition from a predominantly casino-based market to include a more extensive higher education presence within the City. Jobs will also be created by at the new campus. Further, we know firsthand from speaking with Stockton representatives that, in addition to providing the highest level of education to its students, the College has the community’s best interests at heart. By establishing an island-based campus, the College has a vested interest in playing a significant role in Atlantic City ’s revitalization.
Question #4: There are many local residents that can-not manage another increase in their taxes. Is it likely that you will be able to prevent Senator Whelan’s bill from passing?
Response: If any of Atlantic City bills will lead to a tax increase for our constituents, we stand vehemently opposed to their passage and will vote No. However, legislation only needs 21 of 40 votes in the Senate and 41 out of 80 votes in the Assembly to achieve final passage and, subsequently be sent to the Governor’s desk. Senator Whelan is in the Majority Party in the Legislature. The Majority has enough votes, with some to spare in each House, to pass legislation without the Minority Party’s support.
Question #5: Finally, for years, you have been trying to get the CRDA to help pay for a full interchange at exit 40 but Senator Whelan has stood in the way. Politics aside, do you feel that Senator Whelan is representing his district or is his only interest in furthering the agenda of Atlantic City and the big banks that own the casinos?
Response: In all honesty, we cannot speak with respect to what Senator Whelan’s motivations are in not supporting our legislation. From the outset, we have attempted to work with Senator Whelan in establishing a full Interchange at Exit 40. While our primary focus is on serving the interests of Galloway , specifically to expand the Township’s economic base and increase commercial ratables, we believe that a full Interchange would benefit both ours and Senator Whelan’s Legislative Districts both of which include constituent municipalities that are located along and in proximity to Route 30. A full Interchange at Exit 40 would also be beneficial to Atlantic City . It would be a prominent infrastructure improvement along a state roadway connected to Atlantic City which residents living in neighboring communities who work in Atlantic City use to commute. Accordingly, we will continue our legislative efforts to establish a full Interchange.
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