TRENTON – Democrats blasted Gov. Chris Christie for conditionally vetoing a bi-partisan bill that would have required public hearings on any future Port Authority of New York and New Jersey toll increases and imposed other measures to increase accountability at the bi-state agency.
“In effect, the governor announced that reform at the Port Authority will not happen under his watch,” said state Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic).
“This is an insult to commuters who were hit with record toll hikes last year,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The big question is why the Governor is continuing to protect the Port Authority instead of the hardworking commuters of this state?”
In his conditional veto message, Christie said that the PAYNYNJ Transparency and Accountability Act didn’t go far enough to reform New Jersey’s “Shadow Government” of “independent authorities” that “have historically controlled large portions of taxpayer dollars without vigilant oversight.” He returned the bill to the Legislature after deleting any reference to the Port Authority and replacing it with more broad language aimed at enhancing the governor’s oversight powers over independent authorities.
“There is no disputing that transparency and accountability should be applied to every government agency,” said Vainieri Huttle. “In fact, the Assembly has already advanced similar legislation pertaining to other bi-state transportation authorities. But, by changing the language of this bill, the Governor has effectively killed any reforms at the Port Authority. It’s beyond puzzling as to why he would turn a blind eye to an agency with a $7 billion budget that affects millions of tri-state area commuters while making it a priority to crackdown on other authorities.”
“I would be happy to discuss with the governor additional reforms we can bring to New Jersey’s ‘shadow government,’ said Gordon. “But we can’t let the Port Authority slip away scot-free, as the governor is letting it.”
The lawmakers pointed out that any measures governing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey require identical legislation to be approved by both states, and this measure is already working its way through the New York legislature. Christie’s action’s essentially kill this bill, according to its Democratic sponsors.
The oversight bill was prompted by repeated stories of exorbitant overtime costs at the Port Authority; contradicting statements justifying the need for last September’s toll hikes; and outlandish perks for authority members and retirees.
Also on Thursday, the Port Authority said that Philip Kwon had been named the agency’s deputy general counsel. Earlier this year, Christie nominated Kwon for a spot on the state Supreme Court, but Democratic lawmakers did not confirm him.
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