Port Authority Seeks to Increase Tolls as Overtime Pay ‘Flows Like Water’

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which wants to raise tolls by as much as 88 percent, paid $85.7 million in overtime last year and has “no clear strategy” for cutting costs, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

The agency paid overtime to 5,360 of its 6,977 employees in 2010, according to an audit from DiNapoli’s office released today. Employees of the Port Authority Trans Hudson Railway, or PATH, and public-safety workers made up the majority of those receiving overtime, according to the report.

“Before the Port Authority asks for more money to fund its operations, the agency should take a long, hard look at whether its business model for managing overtime really makes sense,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Overtime flows like water at the Port Authority and management has no clear strategy to achieve its own benchmarks and goals for curbing costs.”

Ron Marsico, a Port Authority spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message and e-mail requesting comment.

The agency, which doesn’t receive tax revenue and relies mostly on tolls and transit fares, is seeking to boost the cash cost for the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln and Holland tunnels to $15 from $8 next month. Drivers using the electronic E-ZPass device would see peak-hour tolls go to $12 from $8. Those increases would also apply to three bridges connecting New Jersey to Staten Island.

World Trade Center

The agency says it needs the money to fund a 10-year, $30 billion capital program and to help rebuild the World Trade Center. Board members are scheduled to vote on the fare increase this week.

The plan would boost agency revenue by about $240 million from September through year-end, and $720 million a year starting in 2012, according to the agency. An additional $2 increase in 2014 would add another $290 million a year, raising the total annual gain from the increase to more than $1 billion.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, and his New York counterpart, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, can veto any increase.

Christie, who said last week it was “unlikely” the plan would move forward as proposed, told reporters today that he may support an increase. He said he hasn’t decided on the full proposal to raise bridge and tunnel E-ZPass fares by $4.

Agency employees accounted for 71 of the top 300 pension earners in the state’s retirement system, with annual pensions ranging from $125,612 to $196,768, DiNapoli said. Most of those retirees were eligible to use overtime to inflate their pensions, he said.

Overtime costs dropped 3 percent in 2010 from 2009, even after the agency planned to reduce them by 20 percent, DiNapoli said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Esmé E. Deprez in New York at edeprez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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