Transportation Chair Calls Port Authority a ‘Patronage Empire’

March 22, 2012 | Transportation
Assemblyman John Wisniewski calls both New York and New Jersey governors to task for lack of oversight of the agency.

State politicians have been debating a tax cut for residents since Gov. Chris Christie proposed a 10 percent income tax cut across the board. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, deputy speaker and chairman of the Transportation Committee spoke with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the different tax cut proposals and also about what he considers the mismanagement of the Port Authority.

Wisniewski called Christie’s 10 percent income tax cut a “typical Republican tax policy” that benefits the wealthy without helping the middle class. “We have to understand that it’s the middle class that drives the economy,” he said. “That’s where the consumer market is. That’s where the spending occurs. We need to do things that put people back to work.”

He said the Assembly tax cut plan, which he is sponsoring, gives residents a property tax cut and a millionaire’s tax component to “provide tax relief of 20 percent.” Christie has previously stated he will not consider a millionaire’s tax in any form, which Wisniewski called poor governing.

“The governor’s basically said on every single issue, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ That’s not a recipe for successful governing,” Wisniewski said. “Over time what we’re going to see is a government — if we follow the Chris Christie model — that is skewed toward helping the very wealthy and hurting the middle class.”

Wisniewski also criticized the Port Authority for running its agency improperly and not providing enough information about the organization’s finances. He said he has been unable to get records requested in October 2010 for documents concerning the ARC tunnel project.

Wisniewski had some harsh words for the leaders of both New York and New Jersey when it comes to oversight of the Port Authority. “I think the word benign neglect is probably a charitable term for both governors and former governors as well,” he said. “It’s an agency that’s accountable to no one.”

The Transportation Committee recently got subpoena rights and Wisniewski said it will subpoena the documents he previously requested. “But it really begs the question why should we be forced to go to such extraordinary lengths to get information from agencies that owe their existence to the state?” he asked.

Wisniewski said he believes some in the Port Authority don’t want certain facts to be revealed. “We’re going to look at those facts because at the end of the day it’s to make the agency run better so it’s cheaper for the people who use those facilities,” he said.