This Monday, PATH riders began paying even more for their daily commute. It’s a shame, during these difficult times that working families will be squeezed even harder by toll hikes and fare increases.
What is especially disparaging is that a package of reforms to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) that the Legislature passed, and I sponsored, did not earn the governor’s approval. After this latest round of toll and fare hikes, I joined my colleagues on the Assembly Transportation Committee to put together some tough, common-sense measures to end the political cronyism, wasteful spending, and the history of allocating funds on projects that do not necessarily improve transit that have plagued the Port Authority. As I have said time and again to leaders at the Port Authority and in Trenton, before the Port Authority institutes crushing toll and fare hikes, the public deserves to know that the authority’s funds are being spent efficiently and properly.
The aforementioned PANYNJ Transparency and Accountability Act would give the public greater accountability, disclosure, and training for Port Authority officials. Under a separate bill, the NJ Legislature has the ability to subpoena and review Port Authority records to ensure toll money is not being wasted. Further, I have sponsored a package of bills to curtail excessive pay, eliminate outrageous agency perks such as free EZ Pass devices and require the PANYNJ start making payments in lieu of taxes on their real property located within our state.
Further, the bills I took a part in authoring will end conflicts of interest between employees of the bi-state transportation authority and contractors that often lead to wasteful taxpayer funded contracts. If these bills are made law, there will be a two-year waiting period for former employees seeking employment with companies that do business with the authority, and a bar on gifts or discounts on items that may influence decisions or a bidding process.
Now, if you believe last week’s rosy picture painted by an audit paid for and directed by the Port Authority official themselves, you won’t have any problem paying extra on your ride to work. But, if you’re like me, and think the credit agency that just downgraded the Port Authority’s credit rating has a better idea of the waste continually perpetuated by this authority, then I need your help.
The simple, common-sense measures that I helped pass would bring much needed reform to the wasteful PANYNJ. The governor and Port Authority see things differently. I urge you to call them and tell them it’s time to get behind real reform and end the waste at this agency.
The PANYNJ has become a professional patronage mill and its executives are resistant to change, but commuters should know that I will continue to seek legislative action so a hard-working man or woman is paying reasonable tolls and fares to get to work and not to finance bloated salaries, outrageous benefits and giveaways to preferred contractors.
I hope you’ll join me in this fight.
Ruben J. Ramos, Jr.
Deputy Majority Whip
Assemblyman, 33rd District