PA Turns Over Documents, Lawmakers Want Staten Island-Type Discounts
The State Assembly Transportation Committee could have used subpoena power if the Port Authority didn't comply; the committee chair also criticized the agency for approving toll “rollbacks” for Staten Island commuters while ignoring those in NJ.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey earlier this week avoided a subpoena by starting to make good on its promise to turn over documents to the State Assembly Transportation Committee, APP.com reported, albeit two days after a 30-day deadline had passed.
“With their receipt, [the Office of Legislative Services] will now begin a review process to determine the completeness of the Port Authority’s response,” Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-19), who chairs the committee, told the Asbury Park Press, which also reported that the committee could have used the subpoena power it was granted in March to force the agency to turn over the documents Wisniewski contends he’s been requesting since October 2010.
In April, New Jersey lawmakers said they would consider issuing subpoenas to the Port Authority, which they called “troubled,” requiring agency officials to appear before the committee and produce books, papers, emails and other documents detailing the agency’s finances.
“This step was made necessary by the Port Authority’s hubris and abject failure to respond to basic questions about its operations,” Wisniewski said at the time. “The Port Authority has blatantly shirked oversight and clearly forgotten it exists to serve the public.”
Wisniewski also said the agency had “hidden information” about its toll hikes last year, wasted money on overtime, engaged in cronyism, failed to respond to requests for public records and declined invitations to hearings.
“It’s time for the committee to consider how best to get straight answers for the benefit of toll payers,” he said.
The documents may contain information potentially useful in overhauling how the agency functions and adheres to transparency requirements, according to the Asbury Park Press report.
Last week, the Port Authority board voted in favor of bridge toll discounts for Staten Island commuters. Following the vote, Wisniewski and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) sent an “urgent letter” to agency officials requesting that they “exercise fairness and extend the same discount to New Jersey commuters,” according to Wisniewski’s office.
“This effectively amounts to a rollback of the September toll hikes for Staten Islanders, while New Jersey residents are left holding the bulk of the tab,” said Huttle in a statement. “This is completely unjustifiable, especially in light of the lack of transparency, and should be rectified in the interest of fairness.”
Wisniewski called it “incomprehensible” that New Jersey residents must pay “record-high toll rates,” while commuters in Staten Island get theirs “rolled back 10 years.”
“I can’t condemn Governor Cuomo for advocating for his constituents, but I am condemning Governor Christie for not advocating for his,” Wisniewski said.
Under the plan approved by the Port Authority board on June 28, Staten Island commuters traveling across the Outerbridge Crossing or the Bayonne or Goethals Bridges three times a month using EZ-Pass will pay just $4.75 per for the rest of the month, which Cuomo said is the lowest peak rate in 10 years.
Wisniewski was quick to point out that such a reduced toll plan is not available to commuters who use the George Washington Bridge or the Lincoln or Holland Tunnels.
Wisniewski estimated that would cost New Jersey commuters $128 more a month than their Staten Island counterparts.