Neither Governor Cuomo Nor Governor Christie Rules Out Port Authority Toll Hikes

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (photo courtesy of Gov. Cuomo's flickr page)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey plan to hike Hudson River tolls to as much as $15 for cash-paying drivers during peak hours (from $8) "a non-starter." The proposal would also hike PATH commuter rail fares from $1.75 to $2.75.

But the governor isn't ruling out toll hikes altogether. The governors of New York and New Jersey appoint members to the Port Authority board.

The Port Authority announced late Friday it would be hiking the tolls (which would be be smaller for EZ Pass users) with a joint statement from Governors Cuomo and Christie saying they would need to review the proposal.

The board will hold hearings August 16 and will make a final vote August 19.

At a press conference today in Albany, Cuomo acknowledged the Port Authority needs money.

"To the extent the thrust is: there appear to be long term problems at the Port, and the situation was developing for some time, I think that’s probably right. I’ve heard over the past several months that there are financial issues at the Port and to the extent -- what and how and why  --that’s what we want to find out."

Cuomo added: "I think the proposal is a non-starter for obvious reasons and we’ll now look at what the need for the revenue is."  In a follow-up email, Cuomo spokesman Joshua Vlasto said Cuomo was ruling out this proposal, not any toll hikes whatsoever.

Neither, by the way, did New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a news conference yesterday, in Burlington City, NJ, where he was asked if he would veto a Port Authority board vote to authorize a toll hike.

"Obviously we both have veto authority over the minutes and we can veto it if we want to, but remember this: the Port made very clear in their announcement on Friday that that would mean that hundreds of projects would have to be stopped, that thousands of people would be laid off, and that progress on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site would slow, if not stop. So, governing is about choosing. You’ve got to make choices. So, we have a full range of options available to us including the veto.

"Neither one of us are sitting here threatening anything right now because we want to get all the information before we take any public position on it, except to say as you saw in the joint statement that both of us were surprised at the magnitude of the increase that was being asked for and at the condition of the finances of the Port. Now remember just this spring, I finally got my Chairman of the Port Authority in place and so up to this time really Chris Ward’s been running the Port Authority and so these decisions on budgeting and what’s been spent and what’s been wasted have been under Mr. Ward’s purview, not an appointee of the Christie Administration, so now we have General Samson there. He is looking into it for me. He has been controlling things, I think, at a much better rate than has been done before, and I’m pleased with the kind of experience and professionalism that Chairman Samson has brought to his new role but it is a brand-new role. So, we’re digging in. We’re going to find out the information; we’ll see where we go from here."

Cuomo said he'd be huddling with his two appointees, Jeffrey Lynford and Scott Rechler (the other New York board members were appointed by his predecessors) to review the proposal, but his office didn't say whether would have the review completed by August 19.