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Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) on Friday reiterated her call for Governor Chris Christie to tackle the allegations of waste and taxpayer abuse at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) before considering any toll increases at the trans-Hudson crossings.

Yesterday, Vainieri Huttle sent a letter to Governor Christie asking that before he consider any toll increases, he implement the necessary controls to crack down on the abuse of taxpayer dollars that has allowed the authority to expend nearly half of a billion dollars in overtime costs over the last five years, as detailed in the audit report released Wednesday by the New York State Comptroller.

In light of Christie’s joint announcement with Governor Cuomo yesterday proposing a $1.50 toll increase, Vainieri Huttle again called on the Governor to address the waste and mismanagement currently going on at the Port Authority before dipping any further into taxpayers’ pockets.

“This Governor has repeatedly tried to stake his reputation on being a no-nonsense type of guy that’s not afraid to tackle the problems at our independent authorities and agencies. He has gone to great lengths to highlight the superfluous costs he has vetoed at agencies like the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission and the Delaware River Port Authority. Yet when it comes to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he has remained uncharacteristically silent, ultimately allowing these exorbitant cost overruns by signing off on both their minutes and budget.”

Vainieri Huttle noted that the audit released on Wednesday showed that the Port Authority paid $85.7 million in overtime last year alone.

“Despite the scathing audit detailing rampant waste at the PANYNJ, the Governor has yet to announce any plans to address these problems, but has instead endorsed a plan to hike tolls for countless New Jersey commuters,” continued Vainieri Huttle. “The Port Authority should not be allowed to consider any toll hike until measures are taken to protect the hard-earned taxpayer dollars they are already collecting. This scaled back increase still amounts to a tax hike, regardless of whether the Governor wants to call it a ‘user fee’ or any other name. If he begs to differ, he can look up the word toll in the dictionary.”

“In such a difficult economy, Governor Christie should step in immediately to stop this abuse. If he is not willing to ask the wealthiest taxpayers in New Jersey to pay a little more, then there is no way he should consider asking hard-working commuters of all different socio-economic backgrounds to do so,” added Vainieri Huttle.