New Jersey lawmakers discussing legislative compromise with New York leaders
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) today said negotiations are continuing on a Port Authority reform bill that would provide legislative oversight and detailed reporting on the progress of major construction projects.
"With the rampant waste and abuse we've seen in recent years, we can't, in good conscience, sign off on a bill that doesn't go far enough to safeguard the billions in taxpayer dollars spent every year," said Vainieri Huttle. "I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure the key legislative oversight component is included so that we have a strong system of checks and balances in place."
Facing a December 31 deadline, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday night signed legislation that the New York Legislature passed last June that established conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure safeguards, but did not provide for legislative oversight, require detailed reporting on major capital projects or clearly steer the agency away from real estate development and toward transportation as its principal focus. New Jersey and New York legislators are continuing to work together on final compromise legislation.
"We have been holding detailed discussions with our New York counterparts on compromise legislation that would ensure that the Port Authority remains focused on the vital transportation needs of the region," said Gordon, who chairs the Legislative Oversight Committee that has held hearings on Port Authority reform legislation and the bistate agency's capital priorities.
"With Port Authority taking the lead role not only on construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal, but also on the new Gateway Rail Tunnel, it is more important than ever that we provide proper legislative oversight on major agency construction projects to ensure that they come in on time and on budget," Weinberg said. "We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of tollpayers, the hundreds of thousands who use the Port Authority's airports, and to all the citizens of our state to get this legislation right."
Witnesses who appeared before the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee overwhelmingly expressed support for legislative oversight.
Assemblyman James Brennan, the Brooklyn Democrat who was the chief sponsor of New York's Port Authority bill, issued a press release yesterday promising to continue to work with New Jersey legislators to reach a final agreement on compromise legislation.
"Over the last three years I have worked closely with my colleagues in the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate and believe that we are moving closer to a bi-state agreement that provides a complete overhaul of the Port Authority," Brennan said in the release. "With major projects coming down the pipeline, including the new bus terminal and the Gateway Tunnel project, I am aware of the need to provide the public with a more open and accountable Port Authority as soon as possible."