State legislators of both parties in New Jersey and New York voted unanimously to reform the Port Authority, an agency with a $7.8 billion budget racked by patronage and opacity, and most recently used to exact revenge on an entire town. But shortly before midnight on Sunday, Governors Christie and Cuomo announced they would veto those laws and thus block that hard-earned reform.
Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle of New Jersey sponsored the bill in her state, and called Cuomo and Christie's decision "spineless."
“We crossed party lines to pass Port Authority reform, and they crossed party lines to obstruct it,” she told NJ.com.
In a joint statement, Cuomo and Christie announced that they supported the "comprehensive and sweeping changes" proposed by a panel that they created themselves. Nowhere in their statement do they mention their decision to veto the legislation.
That panel recommended that the Port Authority abolish the two top positions in the agency that are appointed by the respective governors; Bill Baroni, Christie's top appointee at the PA, hired David Wildstein, who gave the order to halt traffic across the GW Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey. By declining to go into specifics on Bridgegate, Cuomo has given Christie and the agency cover.
Under Cuomo and Christie's reform measures, the Port Authority would be subject to FOIL (barring some exceptions, of course!) and run by a single executive appointed by…a board of 12 political appointees.
The vetoed legislation would have forced those political appointees to take a fiduciary oath, and would have created new rules to promote transparency and sound ethical principals.
“It is a cynical thing that they would announce their own panel’s reforms while simultaneously vetoing a proposed law that would simply apply existing ethical standards,” New York State Assemblyman James Brennan told the Times.
Two thirds of both houses in both states would need to vote in favor of the killed legislation in order to override the vetoes.
Governor Christie is still under federal investigation for his role in the "traffic study" in Fort Lee. Governor Cuomo is also under federal investigation for his role in snuffing out his own corruption commission.