TRENTON – Assemblyman Herb Conaway, (D-7), Burlington, told the state transportation officials at a legislative hearing Thursday that they may not be taking the total costs of privatization into consideration, and their decision could ultimately not result in the savings they are touting.
Conaway asked if they had considered “a livable wage” in developing a request for proposal.
“I gather that it wasn’t considered,” Conaway said.
The officials didn’t give a clear-cut answer.
The possible wage for a privatized toll collector is $12, which is a wage that could theoretically make them eligible for public assistance programs administered by the state.
“You’re just shifting costs from one bucket to another,” Conaway said, a remark that received applause from toll collectors in the cramped, dark-wood chambers.
Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson said ultimately, the authority’s role is to ensure a safe transportation network.
“At the end of the day, there’s this higher good,” he said.
Simpson said we are competing in a global economy and the state can’t afford to fall behind, especially when other nearby states are spending less.
“We have to maintain a competitive status,” he said.
Of the 293 full-time Turnpike toll collectors, Simpson said 75 have decided to retire , and 25 are going elsewhere in the authority.