Assemblyman John Amodeo
Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, wants the state to forgo its portion of the 9 percent tax on midweek hotel room bookings in Atlantic City to boost business at the convention center.

Cutting taxes to attract business may be a popular concept among Trenton Republicans, but numerous lawmakers can prove how hard those tax breaks are to pass in practice. Especially now.

Even though Republican Gov. Chris Christie is known to favor reducing taxes to promote business growth, he has objected to proposed laws that would slash state taxes or fees without finding some way to pay for them.

Most recently, he used that logic to veto a package of job-creation initiatives promoted by Democrats that totaled $600 million in tax cuts but had not been included in next year's proposed budget.

"They don't identify one spending cut to pay for it," Christie said Thursday of the Democrats. "If I had done that, I would be this crazy right-wing conservative that cares only about tax cuts and not about balancing budgets. But I don't hear anyone saying that about them."

The need to balance tax-cut proposals with trims in state spending has particularly preoccupied Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic.

Amodeo is in discussions to find a way to cut the hotel-room tax for businesses that bring conventions to Atlantic City in the off-season.

"This would fill in those months, boosting business here for our hotels," he said.

But he said he wants to present the idea in a way that fits the governor's rationale.

"The concept isn't ready yet," Amodeo said, adding he plans to discuss the idea to cut the 9 percent tax on hotel revenue this week with casino executives and the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, which receives its funding from the tax.

"That portion would not be cut," Amodeo said. "They would not lose out."

But that means he would be taking revenue from state coffers, in which case he would like to find a way to replace it, he said.

Amodeo said he expects to introduce the bill March 17.

Online gambling

One day after Christie vetoed a bill that would have created an intrastate, online gambling system, citing constitutional concerns, supporters of the gaming expansion started to fret that other states would succeed where New Jersey failed.

On Thursday, Christie shot down the plan to allow existing casinos to operate online gambling terminals that would have been accessible to state residents of legal age.

Christie feared the system would smash Atlantic City's monopoly on gaming by allowing bars, restaurants and cafes across the state to set up laptops at which customers could sit and gamble.

But on Friday, state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, who had proposed the system, continued to press for state action.

In an e-mail titled "Read It and Weep," Lesniak forwarded news that bipartisan federal legislation to allow similar online gambling portals could appear in as little as a month.

The federal proposal would allow online operators to open shops and pay taxes.

The proposal is set to be sponsored in the House by U.S. Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and John Campbell, R-Calif., and in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Lesniak said.

‘He's a disaster'

In case New Jersey Democrats and union leaders feel they are the only ones ever on the receiving end of Christie's wrath, the governor showed Thursday that he was happy to turn on fellow governors.

Christie, who took a self-paid trip to Illinois recently to drum up interest among corporations to relocate to New Jersey, responded Thursday to Illinois' new print-advertising campaign aiming to steal businesses back.

"Good for them. Let's have at it," Christie said, then added: "We won't lose any businesses to Illinois as long as Pat Quinn's the governor. He's a disaster."

People and Power by Juliet Fletcher, The Press of Atlantic City's Statehouse Bureau reporter, appears every Sunday. Fletcher can be reached at: JFletcher@pressofac.com

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