Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) announced today that he will soon be introducing legislation which will reform and restructure the Port Authority of Allegheny County.
“The Port Authority of Allegheny County has been a significant strain on state and local taxpayers for far too long and it is time the legislature address the issue,” Scarnati said.
The current Allegheny County Executive recently confirmed reports that he asked all board members to submit to him signed, undated resignation letters, and also stated his belief that he, alone, should set the policy and direction of the Port Authority.
“Given the recent fiasco surrounding the dismissal of the former CEO, it is clear that the policy being set by the County Executive is not moving the Port Authority in the right direction,” Scarnati continued. “Further, the raises which were granted to non-union employees, then rescinded the very next day, are just another example of the urgent need for a change in leadership at the Port Authority.”
Scarnati’s proposal would restructure the composition of the Port Authority Board. Currently, all nine full-voting members of the board are appointed by the Allegheny County Executive.
“To truly facilitate change at the Port Authority we need to start at the top,” Scarnati explained. “No one individual should have complete and unchecked control of the Board and its operations.”
Legislation Scarnati is proposing would grant appointing authority for the board to a broad array of state and local officials including the Governor, Legislative Leaders, Allegheny County Council and the Mayor of Pittsburgh. The Allegheny County Executive would retain only a single appointment to the newly restructured board.
The state’s largest mass transit system, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), is governed by a similarly structured board, also composed of members appointed by state and local officials.
“Given the ever-increasing amount of funding the state contributes to the Port Authority, it is appropriate for state officials to have a voice on the board,” Scarnati said. “It is also important that local influence on the board be attained from a diverse group of individuals. My proposal would allow various stakeholders a seat at the table in an effort to govern the Port Authority in the most efficient manner possible.”
Governor Corbett’s transportation funding proposal would potentially provide the Port Authority with an additional $9 million the first year, growing to more than $55 million by the fifth year. This funding would be in addition to the $30 million annual commitment from the state as part of a recent agreement to close a $64 million deficit at the Port Authority.
Not including the aforementioned totals, the Port Authority also receives over $150 million in state operating assistance annually. In addition, Governor Rendell repeatedly diverted hundreds of millions of dollars to the Port Authority in an attempt to address various fiscal crises in the past.
“Moving forward, all options need to be on the table when discussing ways to streamline operations and cut costs at the Port Authority, in order to relieve taxpayers of the heavy burden they are currently being asked to bear,” Scarnati explained.
Scarnati’s proposal would also commission a study to analyze potential modernization proposals including regionalization, consolidation, and privatization of services. A report would then be issued, making recommendations to elected officials and the restructured Port Authority Board in regards to initiatives which could be undertaken to achieve cost-savings and efficiency goals.
“I look forward to working with all interested parties to restructure and reform the Port Authority of Allegheny County in a manner which will provide efficient and reliable services at a reasonable cost to commuters and taxpayers alike,” Scarnati concluded.