NJ Governor Chris Christie and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday patted themselves on the back and each issued a one-paragraph press release of praise for a bill introduced in the NY Assembly on NY/NJ Port Authority reform. The full bill does not appear available yet on the NY legislative website, but I received a summary of the bill from the sponsor. Although what benefits the governors may not benefit the public, it appears to be a positive step forward. It may lead to a long-sought resolution of the impasse following the Cuomo/Christie vetoes of reform legislation jointly passed by the NY and NJ legislatures last year.
The NY Sponsor Assemblyman James Brennan is a Democrat from Brooklyn. In March he called NJ Senator Tom Kean’s alternative Republican reform bill a “nonstarter” because it did not include such items as independent oversight of large capital projects, requirements to disclose the compensation of top officers and an obligation on the part of the chief executive to certify that financial statements are true and accurate. He further faulted the bill for weaker-than-hoped-for protections against toll increases.”
The Star-Ledger today quotes NJ Senator Bob Gordon commending “Brennan for negotiating a bill with Cuomo’s office that contained some of the reforms they worked on together in the vetoed legislation.” But he said the new Brennan measure lacks a requirement that Port Authority officials appear before lawmakers “as needed” to answer questions. That is a reasonable request but should not pose a barrier to a bill we very much need. Sen. Gordon was also concerned “that the proposed leadership structure, starting with a New York chairman, might let the Empire State dominate the agency.” Given the fact that the current and prior Board Chairs have been NJ appointees and that the bill proposes bi-annual rotation between NJ and NY appointees, it seems fair that under the new bill it should be NY to appoint the first chair.
A lot of time and effort has been spent by legislators on both sides of the Hudson River with no result so far. The process is complicated and made more difficult by the power of the two governors to veto. It’s time to move forward and get some legislation passed in order to curb the Port Authority. Additional new provisions are always possible in the future.
See key new provisions of the bill below the fold.