U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) wants Gov. Chris Christie to veto the toll hike proposal and have the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and undergo an independent audit to show exactly why they believe such prohibitive toll and fare increases are necessary at this time.
The senator called for the audit at the outset, but today Menendez amplified his position in a letter he fired off to Christie.
“As you know, the Port Authority is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a proposal to drastically increase tolls and fares,” wrote the senator to the governor, in reference to the 50% toll hike proposed by the authority.
“I am writing to request that you veto this extraordinary increase and have the Port Authority undergo a thorough audit to show exactly why they believe such prohibitive toll and fare increases are necessary at this time. New Jerseyans are already suffering through a 25 percent NJ Transit fare increase and will soon have to endure a second toll increase on the Turnpike and the Parkway. A complete audit is the best way to ensure that the Port Authority comes back to the table with more reasonable options.
“The Port Authority needs to undergo a full, independent audit that provides answers to New Jersey commuters’ questions. The audit should explain how the Port Authority suddenly found itself in such a financial hole and what costs or dips in revenue could not have been anticipated earlier. Earlier this week the New York State Comptroller said “overtime flows like water” at the Port Authority, which paid $85.7 million in overtime last year to 5,360 of its 6,977 employees. I am deeply disturbed by the Comptroller’s report, and the audit should investigate why the Port Authority has not made every effort to cut their operating costs before proposing extreme fee hikes.”
A day before the commission votes on the proposal, reporters from both sides of the river swamped Christie at a press conference in Elizabeth this morning. Happy to talk about his close working relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Christie nonetheless didn’t talk about his and Cuomo’s plan – suspected to be a less stiff alternative to Port Authority’s hike.
“We’re going to come up with an answer as to what our position will be,” the governor said. “If we announce an agreement between the two of us about what we’d like done, I have a decent degree of confidence that the Port Authoirty commissioners would probably vote for it.”
Menendez doesn’t want the governor to wait.
At the very least he wants a public record of his position before Christie and Cuomo attempt to look like an inseparable pair of scale-back execs.
“Traditionally, Port Authority spending was supposed to be divided equally between New York and New Jersey,” Menendez said. “These toll and fare increases will disproportionately affect New Jerseyans so it is important to know whether spending in recent years has been equally distributed between the two states and whether these new revenues from New Jersey commuters will be spent primarily in New Jersey or in New York.
“I believe New Jersey working families, small businesses, and the many that are unemployed and looking for work are struggling enough. At this difficult time, they can hardly afford massive fee increases that will only make it more difficult for them to find work, get to work, or travel at all. Until a full and independent audit is conducted and New Jerseyans are given answers to these questions, you should use your veto authority to prevent the Port Authority from imposing a toll or fare hike.”