By Art Gallagher
Perhaps lost in the news of the S & P down grade of United States Treasury debt is the local news that the Port Authority of NY/NJ is calling for a massive toll and fare increases to fund capital projects. Tolls on Hudson River crossings would increase from $8 to $12 and fares on the PATH trains would increase from $1.75 to $2.75.
Governors Christie and Cuomo issued a joint statement that signals that toll increases are coming, but at lower rate than proposed by the Port Authority Board. We’ve seen this dance before. Port Authority proposes a huge increase and the politicians scale it back.
Mark Magyar has a comprehensive article at NJSpotLight highlighting the “need” for the $1 billion revenue increase that Port Authority is requesting.
Governors Christie and Cuomo have established themselves as credible reformers in reducing the size of state government. The proposal is another opportunity for them to improve government services and implement lasting reforms in the process.
Christie should use this opportunity to reform a major cost driver on public capital projects; “prevailing wage.”
“Prevailing wage” requires wages paid to employees of contractors working on government projects in New Jersey to be paid at a “union rate” determined by the unions and the Department of Labor, even if the winning bidders of the contractors are not union shops.
Eliminating the “prevailing wage” clause in government contracts would save taxpayers billions of dollars on construction projects. There is a huge over supply of labor available. Wages on government contracts should be set my market forces, not by unions who are making political contributions.
The savings associated with eliminating this practice would go well beyond the Port Authority projects. It would extend to DOT projects and county and municipal projects. The saving to toll payers, fare payers and property tax payers would be substantial.
Another area for savings is the largess of salaries paid to the political patrons who run the Port Authority. Just as Christie has mandates that school superintendents shall not earn more than the Governor, employees of the Port Authority should not earn more than the governors of New York and New Jersey.