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Grapevine: Budget showdown in town

The state's budget, facing a projected $1.7 billion revenue shortfall, is a mess.
On this, everyone agrees.

As a remedy, Gov. Chris Christie wants to cut a scheduled $2.25 billion pension payment down to $681 million. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, are calling for a reinstatement of the millionaire's tax and upping corporate business taxes to fill the gap.

On this, everyone disagrees.

Christie is adamantly opposed to the notion of raising taxes. Speaking specifically to the millionaire's tax, a surcharge on the state's wealthiest, he's already vetoed it a handful of times and pledges to do so again if it gets back to his desk.

Democrats say that making anything other than a full pension payment is unacceptable, and if raising taxes are the means needed to do so, then so be it. Senate President Steve Sweeney added last week that in the long run, failing to make a full pension payment “will cost more in higher interest rates and lower credit ratings.”

So folks, we have a showdown on our hands in Trenton, and if no one is willing to budge, this showdown could potentially escalate to a shutdown.

“This is really dangerous politics,” says one insider.

The insider says it's kind of like a game of poker at this point, with each side trying to call one another's bluff.

“You raise the stakes and you see if your opponent blinks,” the source said.

But what if no one does and Trenton falls under the same shutdown spell that hit Washington last year?

“I don't think anyone wins in that scenario,” the source said.

“They've still got a week and a half,” the source said. “Let's get to it.”

Intrigue for paid sick leave 

The push for statewide paid sick leave is finally here. Sort of.

Last week, another coalition launched a campaign in Trenton in support of the bill, promising a star-studded cast of Democratic lawmakers.

Though Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) was listed on the playbill, he ultimately did not end up making the press conference.

That said, his support of the measure could have interesting implications for a potential bid for the governor's office in 2017.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who most believe will end up being Sweeney's primary Democratic challenger in a hypothetical gubernatorial race, was at the forefront of the issue, making his city the first in the state to enact a paid-sick-leave ordinance.

Newark has since followed suit and now lawmakers in Trenton are making a statewide push. For Fulop, that could be a major victory.

But Sweeney is still signing on anyway. Sure, he's the Senate's top Democrat and a sponsor of the state's paid-family-leave law, but his support for paid sick leave could empower Fulop, according to one source.

“I'd be doing the opposite and holding off on that,” the source said of Sweeney.

There's still no indication as to when the bill will be taken up in committee.

Dog days for Revel

Will Revel make it through the summer?

It's a question that's now on the minds of stakeholders who have watched the glitzy resort stagger through two years in the Atlantic City casino market. And there's now chatter that it may in fact close its doors during or after the summer, one insider said.

Since opening to great fanfare in 2012, the towering $2.4 billion casino hotel has endured an identity crisis and an overall performance that has fallen short of changing the fortunes of Atlantic City. Last week the company filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in 15 months.

The property has lost more than $260 million since opening, according to data from state regulators. Enough may be enough, the source said.

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