NJ & NY LAWMAKERS CALL FOR IMMEDIATE ROLL BACK OF PORT AUTHORITY TOLL HIKES IN LIGHT OF SCATHING AUDIT

Vainieri Huttle and Lanza Also Ask Christie & Cuomo to Support Their Port Authority Reform Legislation

Following yesterday’s Interim Consultant’s Report on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) on Wednesday joined with New York State Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) in calling for a roll back of the Port Authority’s most recent round of toll hikes and asked Governors Christie and Cuomo to support their Port Authority reform legislation.

“Given the deficiencies detailed in the audit, it calls into question the need for the exorbitant toll hikes heaped on commuters last fall. Toll payers shouldn’t be forced to suffer for the Port Authority’s lack of oversight, insufficient cost controls and poor capital planning. Our governors and the Port Authority leadership should revisit this issue at once to determine if these hikes are in fact necessary,” said Vainieri Huttle.

“Yesterday’s report on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is nothing short of an indictment of Port Authority operations,” said Lanza. “Clearly the Port Authority management lacks the competency and moral authority to make these decisions which cost our residents. I think it is safe to say that the Port Authority Board made its decision to increase tolls based upon information from an unreliable Dest. It sounds like the Port Authority Board and Governors Cuomo and Christie were sold a bill of goods just like the people of Staten Island. The decision to raise tolls based upon the information provided by the Port Authority cannot be trusted and must not stand,” Lanza said.

In light of the scathing nature of the audit, which characterized the bi-state agency as “challenged and dysfunctional,” the lawmakers are asking Governors Christie and Cuomo to reconvene the Port Authority’s board and recall the vote, which raised tolls and fares in September. They want to see tolls rolled back to prior levels until the board is presented with the proper information concerning the true financial situation of the Authority.

Huttle and Lanza are also asking the Governors to enact their “Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency and Accountability Act” (New Jersey Assembly bill A-1011/New York Senate bill S.5878), which will completely restructure the way the Port Authority does business. The bill cleared a New Jersey Assembly committee last week and Lanza said the legislation is on track for passage in the New York Senate.

“This independent audit calls for the exact type of overhaul laid out in our bipartisan legislation – more public transparency, regular audits, and greater financial accountability,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This is a measure that should, and must, be embraced by both Governors in order to rein in the waste and abuse that have gone unchecked for far too long.

“The consulting firm determined that the Port Authority is in need of a complete top to bottom organizational redesign which is precisely what the legislation that myself and Assemblyman Cusick, together with our New Jersey counterparts, have put forth in our respective legislatures. I call on both Governors Cuomo and Christie to support our legislation which is consistent with the goals they expressed in their joint statement last evening,” said Lanza.

The lawmakers have called for increased transparency and oversight at the Port Authority for some time, however, in light of yesterday’s report of mismanagement and abuse, they believe New Jersey and New York must hold the Port Authority accountable and make reform an urgent priority.

Because laws governing the bi-state agency do not take effect until New Jersey and New York have enacted substantively identical legislation, Vainieri Huttle and Lanza have each sponsored the measure in their respective legislatures.

In addition to approving A-1011 last week, the Assembly Transportation Committee also approved several other measures designed to ensure the proper functioning of the Port Authority including:

  • A-1247: Imposes restrictions concerning Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioners, officers, and employees regarding employment, gifts and compensation.
  • A-2166: Requires legislative approval of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey minutes.
  • A-699: Commences payment in lieu of taxes for tax exempt real property owned by the Port Authority.