EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Proposed tax breaks to help Atlantic City's eight casinos would be eliminated under a plan proposed Wednesday by a Republican assemblyman.
Chris Brown's proposal would freeze Atlantic City taxes for five years at 2014 levels on all property, including casinos.
It also would retain a multimillion-dollar marketing effort for the resort through the Atlantic City Alliance, help ease Atlantic County taxes, and redirect some redevelopment tax revenue to help Atlantic City's municipal finances.
But it would not include a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program proposed by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester).
Brown, who represents the district including Atlantic City, said that plan, which would reduce taxes on some of the larger casinos by as much as $10 million a year, would increase county taxes on property owners by $9 million a year.
"Under the proposed PILOT plan, only casinos get a tax break," Brown said. "Our middle class is working harder and longer, but earning less. It's not fair to ask our middle class families to pay more, while casinos owned by big corporations pay less than their fair share."
Sweeney's PILOT plan would exempt casinos from property taxes for 15 years. The casinos would collectively pay $150 million a year for the first two years, then $120 million a year for the next 13, assuming that gambling revenue stayed within certain ranges.
Sweeney's plan also would eliminate the Atlantic City Alliance and use its $30 million annual budget to help the city in other ways. That plan is up for final votes Thursday in both houses of the Legislature.
Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, who is sponsoring legislation identical to Sweeney's, criticized Brown's proposal.
"Doing nothing and allowing the casinos to endlessly appeal property assessments means more pain for taxpayers across Atlantic County," said Mazzeo, whose district includes Atlantic City. "I will not let that happen."
Brown's plan would bar casinos from opening in North Jersey.
It also would require unspecified cuts to Atlantic City's budget; require the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to make a $5 million payment in lieu of taxes to the city, and direct $10 million of casino investment alternative taxes to the city; split $25 million in unused CRDA grant money between the city and Atlantic County for tax relief; divert $7.5 million from the Atlantic City Alliance's $30 million annual budget to the city; and use $15 million in CRDA funds to develop nongambling attractions in the city. Four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos have closed so far this year.
A comparison of legislative proposals:
Democrats: Exempt casinos from property taxes for 15 years. Casinos collectively pay $150 million a year for two years, then $120 million a year for 13 years, assuming gambling revenue remains within certain ranges.
Republicans: Taxes on all taxable property in Atlantic City, including casinos, would be frozen at 2014 levels for five years. Estimated annual casino payments would be about $160 million.
Democrats: Redirect an alternative casino investment tax - currently used for redevelopment projects - to pay down $25 million to $30 million of Atlantic City's debt in each of the next 15 years. Create a category of state education aid - applicable only to Atlantic City - to make up for the fact that its property assessments have declined by 32 percent over the last five years.
Republicans: Require unspecified cuts to city budget; require the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to make a $5 million payment in lieu of taxes to the city and direct $10 million of casino investment alternative taxes to the city; split $25 million in unused CRDA grant money between the city and Atlantic County for tax relief; divert $7.5 million from the Atlantic City Alliance's $30 million annual marketing budget to the city.
ATLANTIC CITY ALLIANCE
Democrats: Abolish the nonprofit agency that markets Atlantic City and hosts large public events such as free beach concerts, fireworks, and an air show, using its $30 million budget to help the city in other ways.