The prime co-sponsor of two bills to reform the Port Authority was State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. She told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo did not act responsibly when they vetoed those bills.
Weinberg said she wasn’t surprised about the vetoes because of the timing. “We knew as it got later and later into the holiday weekend that that’s usually a time when public officials are doing something that they know the public won’t approve of, that they like to make announcements hoping the public will be distracted,” she said. “So I wasn’t surprised by what they did, but I am still very, very disappointed. I’m disappointed in the way they tried to set this up that it’s either the task force report or the bills. They address two different issues. Our bills didn’t address structure.”
Port Authority Chairman John Degnan said the legislators’ bills tinkered around the edges of reform. Weinberg said he’s wrong about that. “Our bills did a lot more than tinker, quote end quote. Because it requires by law real basic accountability and transparency issues at the Port Authority,” she said.
Christie said the bills lacked the insight contained in the panel’s report that he and Cuomo want to go with. Weinberg said the work was completely different. “We did not address the structure of the Port Authority. The panel addressed structure. And much of that I am willing to embrace,” she said. “But they set this up as if they’re two competing ideas and they’re not. They should be complementing one another. And what they did by the structure is make sure that there really is no transparency built into the system.”
While Weinberg said there are several positive aspects of the panel’s suggestions, she said those measures will take a lot of time. “Returning to the core mission of transportation is a good thing. Hiring an executive director who’s a transportation expert is a good thing. So there are some things in there that are quite good. Selling off their real estate. But they will all take a great deal of time. In fact, probably more than years. And our reforms would have put in place requirements for the public to be involved with what goes on there,” she said.
An override of the vetoes are unlikely. When asked if new reform bills might make their way through the New Jersey Legislature, Weinberg said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney have called for a meeting with leadership of the New York Legislature to discuss next steps.
“But the fact is these two governors really did not act responsibly, and I say that about both of them. One from my party, one from the other party. These are the same two people who manipulated the toll hikes,” said Weinberg.
When asked what the most important piece of reform included in the Legislature’s bills, Weinberg said, “I think the fact that we required in our bills that the Port Authority come to the Legislature once a year and report about what their plans are, how they plan to put their budget together, etc., that was a very big step because it keeps the Legislature at least informed on an official level of what’s going on there and helps to keep the public informed. That of course is not a requirement in this restructuring. But what really bothers me is the idea that they set these up as competition and that’s really a cop out.”