Port Authority Reform: “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”

The NY Democratic  Assembly and Republican Senate have passed a NY/NJ Port Authority reform bill urged by Gov. Cuomo which he will sign shortly. In NJ our legislators are planning to introduce their own bill. Both Govs. Cuomo and Christie support the NY bill and indicate they will sign it. The NY bill provides most reforms we seek including organization, open meetings, public hearings, financial reporting and disposition of PA property. 21 months post-Bridgegate we have the opportunity to rein in the PA. We have a bird in hand.

Would the NJ bill be somewhat more favorable to us? Yes. Is the NY bill a good one? Yes. Is the NJ bill likely to be enacted while Christie and/or Cuomo are in in office? No. It is likely that Christie will remain governor until early 2018.

If NJ legislators persist there will still be no PA reform at least until 2018, and probably not soon thereafter. Governors, present and future, will not like the NJ proposed termination of development banks (slush funds) which provide monies to governors for pet projects. Nor are they particularly concerned about another proposal – requiring without a subpoena appearance of PA officials before the legislature – a reasonable expectation but something which Christie has routinely avoided for his own staff.  

Passing bills which we know our governor will veto is so deja vu – sometimes worthwhile but essentially futile. We are witnessing it right now with the budget. None of Christie’s vetoes so far have been over-ridden. The process of enacting reform is incredibly complicated requiring the approval of an identical bill by two houses each in NY and NJ, and the two governors. We know what the governors will support and not support.

Other concerns expressed by our legislators include the fact that the next Board chair under the new legislation will be a New Yorker, which is reasonable since the last two chairs have been New Jerseyan, and the position rotates every two years.  There is also concern that the new single top executive will be too NY-oriented. However the PA Board, which consists of six New Jerseyans and six New Yorkers, will have to work it out together to reach a majority vote, undoubtedly also with input and the threat of veto from the two governors.

It is time now for PA reform. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

A summary of the NY bill, votes taken, and the full text are HERE.

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