TRENTON—Governor Chris Christie signed a sweeping executive order this week, directing a comprehensive review of all state authorities, boards and commissions and taking immediate action to reform abusive fiscal practices at those authorities, boards and commissions by strictly limiting the hiring of lobbyists, eliminating “golden parachutes” to departing executives and employees and capping travel expenses at $250.
Executive Order 15 also institutes a wide review of all state authorities and requires recommendations by May 15 to the Governor’s Office on whether each such authority, board or commission should continue or cease to exist. In the case of those that continue, the review would further determine whether positions at such entities should be compensated in any way or operate on a strictly volunteer basis.
Such semi-autonomous authorities, board and commissions – of which there are hundreds large and small – control billions of dollars in capital and operating budgets yet operate without many of the safeguards applicable to all other agencies of state government.
“Business as usual at these authorities ends today,” said Christie. “Unbridled rip-offs from ratepayers and taxpayers who fund these entities have been condoned and perpetuated by the political class for decades. Golden parachutes and unjustifiable entertainment and travel expenses have all been the norm. This executive order restores sanity and requires mandatory review and approval of all of these types of contracts and expenses.”
In addition, Christie called for legislation extending gubernatorial review of agency actions and minutes, which is currently required for 38 authorities, to additional authorities including sewage authorities throughout the state. “I look forward to working with the legislature to swiftly bring the needed oversight and accountability that is lacking in these hidden layers of government,” added Christie.
Executive Order Number 15 directs the following:
• Unless expressly approved in writing in advance by the Governor’s Office, it prohibits hiring of lobbyists to lobby the executive branch, Legislature or federal government (as seen most recently in the case of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission attempting to lobby the Governor’s Office when it came under the governor’s scrutiny).
• All such existing lobbying contracts with authorities shall be terminated as soon as legally permissible; if that is not possible, then all such contracts must not be renewed upon expiration.
• All authority heads are directed to immediately identify all contracts with lobbyists and provide a list and copies of them to the Governor’s Office my March 1.
• Travel expenses by any authority board member or employee in excess of $250 are prohibited without advance approval from the Governor’s Office; any unapproved amount above $250 will be borne by the employee or board member.
• Any approved travel must be directly related to the employee or board member’s official state duties.
• No state authority shall include in any contract any financial incentive to be received upon termination or separation from employment, unless authorized by the Governor’s Office.
• All such contract incentives shall be terminated as soon as legally permissible; if that is not possible, the contract shall not be renewed upon expiration.
• The Executive Order further requires that all state authority heads immediately identify all such contracts for compensation upon termination or separation and provide them to the Governor’s Office no later than March 1.
• A Cabinet-level review will be conducted of all authorities, boards and commissions to provide recommendations to the Governor’s Office by May 15, regarding whether each entity should continue to exist or be eliminated.
Those reviews will also include recommendations of whether positions on authorities should be compensated or unpaid and whether reimbursement for expenses will be permitted.
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