Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lesniak Attacks Christie over Road Repairs

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lesniak Attacks Christie over Road Repairs

Article excerpt

A powerful Democratic state senator said Tuesday that Governor Christie "broke the law" by using $1.8 billion of Port Authority money to repair state roads -- without first getting legislative approval -- and asked two federal regulatory agencies to investigate.

In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, Sen. Raymond Lesniak asked for an investigation into the use of the Port Authority's tax-exempt bonds to pay for four major state roadway projects, including the 3.5- mile Pulaski Skyway connecting Newark and Jersey City.

Facing a shortfall in the near-bankrupt fund used to repair state roadways, Christie turned to the Port Authority in 2011.

The agency's spending is restricted by law to projects that are related to its own facilities or that are specifically approved by lawmakers in both New Jersey and New York.

Lesniak, a Union County Democrat and frequent critic of the Christie administration, wrote that the agency did not appear to have the legal authority to fund the state road projects without lawmakers' approval. He also questioned whether the agency made misstatements or misled the bondholders and investors who are providing the agency with the money that is being funneled into New Jersey roads projects.

The Port Authority disputed that in a statement Tuesday, saying it was on sound legal footing.

"The Port Authority, as a responsible issuer of municipal obligations, has always followed appropriate municipal disclosure guidelines and tax laws related to its bonds," Port Authority spokesman Chris Valens said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the agency has the legal authorization to pay for the projects. "The Port Authority strongly disputes any allegations to the contrary."

The Manhattan district attorney issued a subpoena last month requesting documents related to the Pulaski Skyway funding, and a source familiar with the investigation said the office is looking at whether the diversion of money to New Jersey roads broke state securities or state income-tax laws. …

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