Monday, April 16, 2012

Assembly Transportation Committee Members on Authorizing Use of Subpoena Power to Compel Testimony from Port Authority

Members Say Subpoenas Will Help Deliver Information on Bi-State Agency’s Troubled Finances

(TRENTON) – Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewksi (D-Middlesex), the chair of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), the vice chair of the transportation panel, and Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson), a member of the transportation panel issued a multimedia package Friday in which they discuss the need to authorize their committee with subpoena power in order to further its investigation into the finances and operations of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority).
This is the latest action in the committee’s ongoing effort to seek information and clarification of the bi-state agency’s finances and expenditures.  The General Assembly had previously voted in March to grant the Transportation Committee subpoena power over the Port Authority, following months of bad press for the agency, two scathing audits of its practices, discrepancies in its explanation of how the additional revenue from the recent series of toll hikes would be expended, and repeated refusals to provide information under state and federal public information acts.
The multimedia package consists of a video of the Democratic Assembly Transportation Committee members discussing the need for the subpoena power to ensure the Port Authority is appropriately employing its resources to serve travelers using its crossings and mass transportation services and audio and a transcript of same.
The video can be accessed directly via our website – – or by pasting the following link into a Web browser:
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from the committee members is appended below:

Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Chair:
            “We’ve asked for documents from the Port Authority to explain their inner workings; to understand their decision making.  This agency, time and time again, has just said ‘No.’  At a certain point in time, we can no longer accept that they’re just not going to show.  We need to compel the production of documents.  We need to compel the production of testimony.
“So the step that the committee took was to authorize the issuance of subpoenas.  And everybody should understand exactly what we’re trying to do here.
“This committee is engaging in fact-finding.”

Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Vice Chair:
“I voted for the subpoena power because I want to be able to share the information with my constituents about where their toll money is going.  How is it being spent?  Is it going to good purpose for our infrastructure?
“Or is it just being wasted by this challenged and dysfunctional agency that we call the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey?”

“There’s one statistic that says that if you’re earning under $100,000 a year and you commute to New York every day, you pay more to the Port Authority in tolls than you pay to the State of New Jersey in income tax.
“That’s outrageous and that’s got to be changed.”

Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Member:
“So, I think people want to understand where’s this money being spent?  And I think that right now, as a legislator, I don’t think I could honestly answer that question.  I think the most embarrassing answer I could give someone is ‘I don’t know.’
“And hopefully, at the end of the day, when we go through this process and we gather the information, I will have a better understanding and give my constituents a better understanding of where their toll dollars are being spent.”

“Everybody – the Republicans on the committee and the Democrats – all said they believe the Port Authority needs to be fundamentally remade.  And so, in order to make those changes, we need to operate based on facts.  And so, the goal of this committee is to get the facts it needs to sponsor the legislation that’s required to make the changes that are demanded.”

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