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Gordon & Vainieri Huttle: Christie Continues to Protect Port Authority by Killing Transparency & Accountability Act

Senator Bob Gordon and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the lead sponsors of the bipartisan Port Authority Transparency and Accountability Act, on Thursday called Governor Christie’s conditional veto of the measure irresponsible and nonsensical, questioning why the Governor would continue to protect the scandal-ridden, multi-billion dollar agency.

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. After letting the legislation (S-1761) languish on his desk for over two months, Christie returned the measure to the legislature today with language that does not even include the Port Authority, a move that effectively vetoes the bill.

“In effect, the governor announced that reform at the Port Authority will not happen under his watch,” said Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic). “I would be happy to discuss with the governor additional reforms we can bring to New Jersey’s ‘shadow government.’ But we can’t let the Port Authority slip away scot-free, as the governor is letting it.”

“This is an insult to commuters who were hit with record toll hikes last year,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “There is no disputing that transparency and accountability should be applied to every government agency. 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. The big question is why the Governor is continuing to protect the Port Authority instead of the hardworking commuters of this state?”

The legislation was prompted by repeated stories of exorbitant overtime costs at the Port Authority; contradicting statements justifying the need for last September’s toll hikes; $4 million in Christie administration patronage hires; and outlandish perks for authority members and retirees.

The main provisions of the legislation would have required:

  • Open public meetings and the publication of minutes of the meetings of the authority’s Board of Commissioners;
  • Public hearings to be held in the port district of New York and New Jersey to discuss any proposed fee, toll, charge or fare increase;/li>
  • The establishment of audit, finance and governance committees;
  • An independent auditing of the Port Authority;
  • Financial disclosures and training for commissioners;
  • fourth item
  • Financial reports certified by the chair and vice-chair of the board of Commissioners of the Port Authority and the executive director, deputy executive director and chief financial officer of the authority; and
  • The creation of a fiduciary responsibility for commissioners.