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Cuomo vetoes bill to overhaul Port Authority

By Juan Soto

The war is far from over.

The same day that the governors of New York and New Jersey vetoed legislation that would overhaul the work of the Port Authority, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Republican counterpart in New Jersey, Chris Christie, unveiled their own plan to reform the agency and make it more transparent.

In May, both governors ordered an evaluation of the PA’s structure, management and operations, setting up the bistate “Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority.”

Among the recommendations of the panel, made public as the governors rejected the legislation, is creating a single chief executive officer to oversee the agency who would replace the actual executive director and the deputy executive director.

As part of the reform, both governors would ask for the resignations of all board members.

“The recommendations put forward by the bistate panel include important reforms to address the Port’s inefficient and outdated governing structure and will help bring new transparency and effectiveness to the agency as it approaches its tenth decade of service,” Cuomo said.

Christie spoke in similar terms.

“These changes reflect the need for a profound and necessary reimagining of the Port Authority governing structure, operations and transparency in its oversight of the world’s largest transportation and commerce network,” the governor of New Jersey said.

The changes proposed by both governors include more investments in the airports, reform of the public-records and ethic guidelines, modernization of the Port Commerce facilities to increase their efficiency and improvements to the operating model for Path trains.

But state legislators, at the same time, promised to fight for a law that would transform the bistate agency. The bill vetoed by the governors passed unanimously in both houses of each state legislature.

The bill approved by the four chambers would basically change the whole culture of the troubled agency, calling for an independent audit, restricting lobbying and establishing an inspector general’s office.

The PA manages the three major New York area airports, including Kennedy and LaGuardia, bridges, tunnels and the Path system. For 2014, its operating budget was short of $3 billion.

The veto also came as the authorities investigate the lane closing last year at the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. The scandal has damaged Christie’s reputation.

The New Jersey governor also vetoed another Port Authority transparency bill two years ago amid a toll increase.

New York lawmakers said overriding the veto “is not practical” and promised to push for legislation to become law. The legislative session in Albany ends this week.

Meanwhile, Democrats in New Jersey, according to published reports, said Tuesday that they will attempt to override the veto sometime in mid-January.

Several Queens lawmakers could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto‌@cngl‌ocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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