But union still trying to overturn on appeal
TRENTON, N.J. — The Christie administration is allowed move forward with its plan to have a private firm to take over parts of the New Jersey lottery after a state appellate court denied a request by the state's largest public workers union to block the deal.
But the court said it will speed up the process of hearing the Communication Workers of America's appeal of the contract.
It's the latest development in an ongoing, partisan debate over the future of the lottery, the state's fourth-largest source of revenue. Gov. Chris Christie's administration says the pending 15-year agreement to have Northstar New Jersey manage the lottery's sales and marketing branches will bring the state more money. Opponents — including Democratic congressmen and state lawmakers — argue that Christie has not been transparent about a deal that they claim could lead to layoffs and may break the law.
In an appeal filed last week in Superior Court in Trenton, the CWA — the union that represents New Jersey's lottery workers — said the contract violates state and federal law.
In an order released today, a two-judge panel granted the union's request for a speedy appeal on an emergent basis. But Appellate Division Judge Anthony Parrileo said they denied the request for a stay of the contract because the union failed to prove irreparable harm if the deal moved forward during the appeal.
Seth Hahn, the CWA's legislative and political director for New Jersey, said today the issue has been disappointing.
"I think there's a failure of leadership here," Hahn said. "The first time anyone will have a chance to weigh in on the appropriateness of this contract will be inside of a courtroom."
Hahn also said he was upset with the court's decision to deny a stay of the contract.
"The ruling just says there's not an immediate irreparable harm," he said. "The court may say that $120 million in a budget is not irreparable harm, but taxpayers of New Jersey may feel differently if this does not work out in their favor."
Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, said "this issue has been completely mischaracterized and overblown by the CWA and some highly partisan Democratic legislators, and we are confident it will continue to be settled in our favor in court."
State Treasury Department spokesman Bill Quinn said earlier this week that the lottery's managers expect to sign the contract soon.
The lottery generates $2.6 billion in ticket sales a year. Last year, the state received $950 million in revenue from the lottery, financing scholarships and programs for the disabled and military veterans.
Under the deal, Northstar would pay the state $120 million up front and promise to bring New Jersey $1.42 billion more in lottery revenue of the next 15 years. The firm would keep 5 percent of the increases if it meets its goals.
The CWA has endorsed state Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie's opponent in this year's governor's race and one of the many Democratic lawmakers who have spoken out about the plan.
Northstar is a consortium made up of GTECH, an Italian-owned company based in Rhode Island that has operated New Jersey's Lottery machines since 1984; Scientific Games International, situated in Georgia; and OMERS, a pension fund for workers in Ontario, Canada.