- Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is improving efficiency and transparency in a "culture shake-up" that follows years of insulation at the agency, said David Samson, the chairman of the New York & New Jersey Port Authority, during a breakfast roundtable yesterday sponsored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
Samson and state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson spoke about the state's most pressing infrastructure problems and initiatives to about 100 New Jersey Chamber of Commerce members at the breakfast in Monroe.
Samson said the Port Authority, under pressure to streamline by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, recently required its employees to contribute to the cost of their health care insurance, eliminated employee sick-day payouts and longevity pay, stopped free E-ZPass for staff and retirees and has posted salaries of every employee on the Port Authority website.
"Public employee compensation packages have been allowed to drift way out of proportion to public and private benchmarks," Samson said. "We have begun to address that."
He added, "One of the problems with insulation has been that the Port Authority worked with blinders on while resources are not what they used to be."
The Port Authority recently approved toll increases to fund critical capital projects, such as raising the Bayonne Bridge to allow large cargo ships to reach the region's ports; improve the Helix that motorists use to reach the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey; and replace key cables on the George Washington Bridge.
"I don't like to raise tolls, but we can't levy taxes," Samson said.
Simpson said the state is spending $8 billion on infrastructure improvements, which is more than neighboring states are spending. Big projects include the widening of the New Jersey Turnpike to eliminate notorious congestion at Exit 8A. It also is critical to rehabilitate the Pulaski Skyway, Simpson added.
According to Simpson, the state is in the second year of the five-year, $8 billion transportation capital plan, one-third of which is covered by the state budget. Previous plans relied significantly more on borrowing. "The (current) plan gets us through the next three years," he said.
Thank you to Xerox for sponsoring the breakfast.
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