Tag Archive: NY/NJ Port Authority Reform

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.  

New PA Reform Bill: This could be the start of something big

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.