The last thing Atlantic City needs is more state government
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
(Reprinted from July 28, 2010 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/index….overnment.html)
New Jersey casinos are in trouble. Although there is corruption and incompetence in Atlantic City?s local government, state government is even worse, which is why local government in Atlantic City got to be so bad in the first place.
The casino industry in Atlantic City has many bright and honest people who would make excellent public officials. Yet state laws don?t allow any casino company executive, employee, contractor or supplier to run for public office, make campaign contributions or even speak out on political issues in Atlantic City.
State politicians bullied Donald Trump into submission and drove out Steve Wynn in the 1990s. They yanked the license of the Tropicana casino for almost nothing in 2007, and ruined the casino?s investment of almost $2 billion.
The 1978 state casino law also requires that every casino have 500 rooms. This guaranteed a two-year monopoly for Resorts International, a client of powerful attorney and Democrat political boss Pat McGahn. It also kept local family businesses, the backbone of Atlantic City?s economy for 125 years, out of casino ownership. Why should only a handful of giant corporations run not only every casino, but also every hotel, shop, theater, and restaurant around every casino?
State government is also what made taxes so high in Atlantic City and everywhere else in New Jersey, killing any hope of new private investment.
Civil Service laws let politicians hire unqualified and incompetent friends and relatives for government jobs. Then those same laws make it impossible to fire any of them when those politicians are finally thrown out of office. This causes government at every level to grow like a cancer. Newly elected politicians reward their friends with new jobs because Civil Service won?t let them fire any of the people hired by their defeated opponents.
State law also created public employee unions and gave union leaders more power to set pay, benefits, and pensions than the officials we the people elect to represent us. For years state arbitrators ordered much bigger pay, pension and benefit hikes than most taxpayers ever got.
And of course, new state environmental and zoning laws in the 1980s became so strict and complicated that every new project was in violation of something. Nobody could build anything without spending a fortune on campaign contributions and the ?right? lawyers and other ?consultants? and ?experts? to get the permits they needed.
To offset this high cost of doing business in New Jersey, a few favored businesses got special tax breaks and low-interest loans from the government. And they were allowed to hire cheap illegal immigrants. The rest of us pay dearly for this.
State politicians also ripped off the casino industry in countless other ways. They threatened to legalize slot machines in North Jersey until the casinos ?donated? millions of dollars to bail out the race tracks. Money from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority became a slush fund that was used to book entertainment and reward political friends.
The state created new government authorities that ripped off tourists with new taxes on hotel rooms, drinks and parking.
State politicians even ruined the Boardwalk. They pandered to environmental groups (and big union contractors) by building ugly, artificial sand dunes that blocked the ocean view and the refreshing breeze.
Republicans and Democrats in state government got away with all this for 32 years. But now, gamblers, tourists and investors all have other options in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Too much state government is killing Atlantic City, yet Republicans and Democrats want more of it. Why not try more liberty instead?
Why not let people with casino licenses run for local office, support candidates, and speak out on public issues? They have those rights in Nevada, and everywhere else in America. Why not let new hotels with 50 rooms have casinos? Ten new 50-room hotels would create as many jobs as one hotel with 500 rooms.
Let us locals bulldoze the sand dunes. Small concrete seawalls are better flood protection.
Cut taxes by cutting the cost of government. Let elected officials who represent taxpayers ? not appointed arbitrators ? decide the salaries, pensions and benefits of our public ?servants? and who is no longer needed. Cut the cost of zoning and environmental permits by making laws fair, simple, and applied equally to everyone.
Whenever a zoning or planning board grants a variance to a ridiculous law, why not automatically change the law and offer the same deal to everyone? Abolish all those unelected, but highly political, authorities and their taxes.
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT-92.1FM, heard throughout South Jersey 8-9 a.m. every Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner, Tilton & Fire Roads, Egg Harbor Township.