Lawmakers vow to try again after Cuomo, Christie veto bill to reform Port Authority

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The governors of New York and New Jersey have vetoed legislation intended to clean up the troubled Port Authority and have supported recommendations from a panel they created.

The bill would have created an office of inspector general and required annual audits of the agency. It also would have restricted lobbying, created a whistleblower protection program and required Port Authority board members to swear they would act in good faith.

The bill passed the state legislatures this year. Saturday night was the deadline for Governor Cuomo to act on the New York legislation.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced their vetoes of the bill in a statement Saturday and proposed instead measures they said would go further in bringing accountability to the agency.

Those ideas include

  • a single Chief Executive Officer to replace the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director
  • Reforming the Port Authority’s public-records and ethics guidelines, fully consistent with each state’s open public records laws
  • Adopting a new Mission Statement to refocus the authority on its original core mission of developing and overseeing regional transportation infrastructure
  • Pursuing the construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal to meet the increasing requirements of this vital element of the Trans-Hudson transportation network
  • Seeking an improved operating model for the PATH rail system, including potentially partnering with a third-party operator, to enhance the PATH’s operational performance and reduce its financial deficit and possibly modifying overnight and weekend train schedules.

Bill supporters have accused the governors of opposing common-sense reforms and protecting their own ability to run the agency. Possible PATH train service restrictions have angered riders, especially those who work overnight shifts.

Stewart Mader, with the PATH Riders' Council, stresses the accountability of laws over executive actions.

"The best way to insure comprehensive reform that benefits working families on both sides of the river," Mader said, "is through laws that are accountable to the legislators and make sure there is broad oversight by elected officials."The Port Authority will discuss the proposals.

An override of the veto does not seem likely. Lawmakers could introduce new measures. They passed the legislatures in both states this session.