By David Cruz
Aside from a short statement, Gov. Chris Christie has not been heard from on his vetoes of unanimously-supported Port Authority reform bills. But the fallout dominated the week between Christmas and the New Year. Democrats, seething from the governor’s cheeky maneuvering, called it a dark day for reform, and are calling for an override in the New Jersey Legislature, which they’ve yet to accomplish against this governor.
“There’s some options in New Jersey because we’re still in our session that continues in January, so it’s in the Senate because it originated in the Senate. If they wanna start with an override that would be to the Senate president to see what we do. But we have to get some reform done because we owe it to the riders of both states, New York and New Jersey,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.
Democrats know a veto override is doomed to failure, but in trying, they hope to show that Republicans are putting duty to their governor above duty to their constituents.
“You know, David, we haven’t been successful in veto overrides but eventually, my Republican colleagues are going to have to explain to people why they were for it before they were against it. Saying that they didn’t realize that a bill did this or a bill did that is complete nonsense,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
“Would I have preferred to have seen a conditional veto? Yes. That being said, I’m also a pragmatist. And so we all agree, regardless of party affiliation, that reforms have to occur at the Port Authority,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.
Both sides also agree that there is some good in the reforms proposed by the governor’s special panel on the future of the Port Authority, which include changes to the management structure, refocusing the agency’s mission and putting a new emphasis on ethics and transparency. But they don’t agree on how to get there.
“I’d rather take that time to focus and work with my colleagues to implement some of the recommendations and suggestions that were contained in this new report and maybe add some of our stuff back in and do it that way,” Schepisi said.
“It’s over a hundred pages, the report, so we’re looking at it and seeing what recommendations could be added to whatever we were doing before. There were other issues in there that talked about services and privatizing service and cutting service between 1 and 5 a.m. and I think that’s a problem,” said Prieto.
Service cuts to the PATH system may be the bullet point a lot of people are talking about this week, but that would only mean $10 million to an agency with an $8 billion budget. Major changes dealing with accountability and fiscal oversight would have a more profound affect on the PA and, that, say some lawmakers, will ultimately generate the most debate in the months ahead.