On November 30, NJ Superior Court Assignment Judge Julio Mendez will hear arguments on the lawsuit challenging the “Casino PILOT Law”. That law limits tax increases for Atlantic City casinos at 2% per year for the next nine years. Every other home and business owner in Atlantic County would make up the difference. The lawyers were instructed to submit all papers by this Friday, November 10.
Most business owners know what caused Atlantic City’s financial mess. They also know how easily it could have been avoided.
When the business and property values declined in 2007, City Hall and the public schools should have cut back on spending. However, they continued to spend more each year like during the boom years of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
A state law called “The Local Budget Law” requires every city to adopt a balanced budget at the beginning of every year. However, state officials permitted Atlantic City to run without budgets and spend roughly $80 million more than it took in between 2010 and 2016. As a result, Atlantic City government is now roughly $500 million in debt.
Atlantic City did this by over-assessing properties and delaying tax appeals. Atlantic City, with state permission, also failed to pay its share of employee pensions and health benefits costs for more than two years.
Atlantic City’s eight casinos (including The Revel) own roughly half of Atlantic City’s taxable real estate. They should therefore pay roughly half of Atlantic City’s property taxes.
Last year, the casinos lobbied for a special state law that exempted them from tax increases more than 2% per year during each of the next nine years. They did this even thought seven casinos still in business were now earning record profits.
The casinos hired a lobbying firm called “Optimus Partners”. It is owned by Phil Norcross, brother of Democrat George Norcross, and Jeffrey Michaels, a Republican with close ties to Governor Christie.
During May of last year, Republican Governor Chris Christie, and Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature enacted a “Casino PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) Law”. It gives Atlantic City’s eight “casino gaming properties” to tax increases of 2% per year for the next nine years.
In 1844, New Jersey adopted a new State Constitution. It was designed to put limits on the uncontrolled corruption and debt that caused America’s first economic collapse in 1837. One of its key provisions to assess and tax all property equally. That “uniformity clause” is still an important part of our State Constitution.
Last year, Liberty and Prosperity and three of our members filed a lawsuit to declare that the Casino PILOT Law violates that “uniformity of taxation” section of our NJ Constitution. Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, the County Freeholders, and the towns of Absecon, Egg Harbor Township, Hamilton Township, Somers Point, Ventnor, and Weymouth later joined in it.
HERE IS HOW YOU CAN HELP:
If you, or someone you know, own a hotel, motel, shop, restaurant, or bar in Atlantic City, please submit a certification to the court. The lawyers for Atlantic County and the six towns are doing an excellent job of presenting our legal arguments. However, we need non-casino business owners in Atlantic City to present the facts. We need to show that non-casino businesses need “tax stabilization” just as much as the eight Atlantic City casinos.
The casinos claim they cannot remain in business if they are forced to pay higher taxes during the next nine years. We want to argue that non-casino businesses would be forced out of business if they had to pay double their share of tax hikes for the next nine years. However, we cannot argue that point unless we have evidence. That is why we need signed certifications from owners of non- businesses in Atlantic City.
Please look at a sample certification posted on the previous blog. If you would like to submit a certification for your business, please contact Seth Grossman at (609) 927-7333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The papers must be filed with the court by this Friday, November 10. Thank you for your consideration.