Chris Christie’s Casino Cash Estimates Too Optimistic, Says Budget Expert [POLL]
Atlantic City’s casinos poured almost a quarter billion dollars into the State Budget last year. The more the state rakes in from the casinos the more cash it will have on hand to fund other programs without having to tax you more.
The lead budget analyst with the research arm of the legislature predicts casino revenues will increase by $20 million in the coming year, but admits that might be optimistic. If it is too optimistic, Governor Chris Christie’s projection must be pie-in-the-sky because he thinks casino revenues will rise by $40 million.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli asks, “What’s the right number here so we can budget accordingly?” He says, “I think these numbers are optimistic at best….Atlantic City’s success is New Jersey’s success and although we’re optimistic the question is; do we have the right number?”
Even Dr. David Rosen, the top budget expert with the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS) isn’t confident in his own projection. He says, “It’s based on the new casino (Revel) as well as the expectation of an improved economy, but of all our forecast numbers that’s the one that I’m most worried about. That it’s overly optimistic.”
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The Governor is standing by his estimates. “There are two things OLS has proven in this area: One is being wrong, and two is following whatever the agenda is of the majority of the Legislature,” says Christie. “Last year when the Legislature wanted to spend more, they said I said we didn’t have enough money. They turned out to be wrong about that. Now this year when I want to cut taxes, they say we don’t have enough money.”
Democratic Senate Budget Committee chairman, Paul Sarlo says, “I think none of us are convinced that you’re going to see such an upswing in people (visiting Atlantic City casinos).”
Revenue from Atlantic City’s casinos is dedicated to prescription programs for seniors and transportation for the disabled. If the casinos don’t ship enough in taxes to the state, other funds within the State Budget would have to be diverted to keep the programs going and that means budget holes will start appearing elsewhere.
“This money is very important money to our budget,” explains Burzichelli. “Although Atlantic City sits in one place, the money coming out of Atlantic City goes everywhere in the state.”