State Assemblymember Jim Brennan, chair of the New York Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, has introduced legislation in the New York State Assembly to apply New York’s public authority reforms to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The agency had been excluded from the reforms because it is a bi-state agency. The bill also modifies the toll increase process, requiring hearings at least 30 days prior to an increase. The Port Authority adopted its nearly one billion in toll increases in two weeks in August.
The legislation includes critical reporting requirements such as a four-year capital budget, a detailed plan for a full year’s worth of upcoming debt issuances made available to the Governors and the Legislatures of both states, independent annual financial audits, and a duty of loyalty and care to the agency, its mission, and the public interest by the board of trustees and top management.
“A statutory duty for management and the board for full public reporting of financial problems would have given the public substantial advance notice of the huge toll hikes,” Mr. Brennan said. “The Board would have had to provide a meaningful public discussion of the negative financial outlook for the Port Authority issued by Moody’s in both January and March 2011,” he added.
The bill also provides for whistleblower protections, an Inspector General and specific procedures for property dispositions.
Assemblymember Michael Cusick, one of the co-sponsors of the bill said, “The hard earned money of New York State commuters and residents needs to be handled with care and dedicated to projects that improve their lives and strengthen our economy. This bill installs a series of safeguards to ensure these goals are met.”
“The Committee is examining what options may exist to provide additional relief from rising tolls in the future,” Mr. Brennan said, “including whether the States of New York and New Jersey or the Federal government can provide additional funding for the critical bridge, tunnel, rail, and bus infrastructure and operations.”
Senator Andrew Lanza will be introducing a companion bill in the State Senate.