NJ Senate fails to override veto of Port bill

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey's Senate failed on Thursday to override Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a bill that sought more oversight of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Supporters of the override needed 27 votes, or a two-thirds majority, but only mustered 22. There were 15 votes against the override.

Christie vetoed the bill in July, saying at the time that some of the reforms had already been implemented at the Port Authority. He sent the bill back to legislators urging them to apply it to the numerous state agencies he has called the "shadow government."

The legislation would have forced the Port Authority to hold more public meetings before voting on toll hikes and publish its board of commissioners' meeting minutes.

The Port Authority was criticized last year when it held public hearings on one day and at times and locations that some said were inconvenient for working people. It then raised tolls on bridges and tunnels by 50 percent for cash payers.

Last spring a group of New Jersey congressmen called for the Port Authority to suspend a second round of toll hikes scheduled for December until the agency can demonstrate that its finances are in order. Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appoint commissioners to the Port Authority board, asked for an outside audit as part of the agreement to raise tolls.

The first phase of the audit released in January called the Port Authority "a challenged and dysfunctional organization" and cited a lack of leadership and cost controls. The auditors' second report, released last month, said the agency has made significant reforms though more work is needed.

The second report also said that the toll increases were crucial if the Port Authority is to fund improvements to its bridges, tunnels and other facilities.