Reforms sought at New Jersey transportation agencies

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, August 27, 2012

The focus for many state lawmakers around the country is centered on the upcoming fall elections, but New Jersey lawmakers continue to meet at the statehouse to discuss possible rule changes.

A four-bill package that is halfway through the New Jersey statehouse is designed to help curtail excessive perks and compensation at multiple bi-state transportation agencies.

The agencies – the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Delaware River Port Authority, the Delaware River and Bay Authority and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission – are funded mostly through tax dollars and tolls. Concerns about how money is being spent at the agencies have heightened after recent audits.

To address concerns, the Assembly voted unanimously to move forward with efforts to impose various restrictions and enhance transparency at the agencies.

One bill – A1247 – covers PANYNJ officials and employees. If signed into law, restrictions would be put in place on their use of company vehicles, overnight travel, personal expense accounts and toll passes.

The legislative action is in response to the implementation last fall of the first phase of a multiphase toll increase on bridges and tunnels for cars and trucks. The rate for trucks is slated to increase from $40 to $90 by 2015.

PANYNJ officials said the toll increases are needed to help them pay for a 10-year, $25 billion capital plan.

Citing reforms already underway at the Port Authority, Gov. Chris Christie recently vetoed a bill that dealt solely with reforms at the agency. Instead, he urged lawmakers to extend the regulations sought to all multi-jurisdictional authorities.

The remaining bills in the package – A1244, A1245 and A1246 – cover concerns about excessive perks and compensation at the Delaware River Port Authority, the Delaware River and Bay Authority and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. Because of their bi-state nature, identical legislation must be passed in multiple statehouses to change each group’s policies.

Paul Moriarty, D-Camden/Gloucester, said the provisions covered in the bills would subject to removal from office or employment any commissioner, office or employee of an agency or its subsidiary corporations who willfully engages in conduct, or accepts a benefit, in violation of the provisions. Offenders would also face fines of up to $10,000.

“Our legislation will help these agencies better focus on their primary concern: the motoring public,” stated Moriarty.

The bill package awaits further consideration in the Senate.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

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