As reported by N.J.com, guests at Atlantic City hotels may soon see a new $2 surcharge on their room bills to help avoid police and firefighter layoffs in the financially struggling seaside gambling resort.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto on Tuesday proposed a bill that would temporarily charge hotels in the city a $2 tax or fee to help avoid layoffs that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration seeks in the city’s public safety department in the ongoing state takeover of the local government.
Under the measure (A4556), the tax would last for two years and proceeds would be used exclusively to help fund the city’s public safety.
“I was adamant that any state takeover of Atlantic City not involve, among other things, police and firefighter layoffs that would threaten public safety and the city’s efforts to market itself as a safe and family-friendly destination, but not everyone agreed,” Prieto (D-Hudson) said in a statement.
“The harsh reality is now setting in, sadly, but I will not stand idle and allow police and firefighter layoffs to harm public safety for residents while also hurting the public’s ability to feel confident about visiting the city. Atlantic City must remain successful for the betterment of the entire state.”
Prieto’s office did not immediately have an estimate of how much the legislation would raise each year.
But by comparison, the city’s Casino Redevelopment Authority charges hotels a $3-per-room fee, which raised $11.8 million in 2005.
The city has been rocked by five casinos closing in recent years, and Christie’s administration moved in November to seize control of key functions of city hall — including the ability to break union contracts and hire and fire employees.
Public safety unions are expecting the Republican governor to seek deep cuts in police and fire.
Christie’s office did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
But Jeff Albrecht, the chairman of Meet AC, the city’s convention bureau, told the Press of Atlantic City that he is skeptical of the idea, noting that city hotels already pay state, luxury, casino, occupancy, and promotion taxes and fees.
Meet AC commissioned a study last year that show Atlantic City hotels already carry some of the highest room taxes in the nation.
“We would tell the state or whomever, that all businesses should be included, not just hospitality,” Albrecht told the newspaper. “Tourism is the number one economic-driver, not just for Atlantic City, but the entire county. … If we don’t do more to stimulate and protect it, we are all going to lose.”