In response to a media report today that the Delaware River Port Authority?s (DRPA) operating budget will increase more than 18 percent next year due to its highest in the nation debt burden for a toll-collecting agency and salary increases for its nearly 1,000 employees and chief executive, Assemblyman John Amodeo today called the proposed spending plan highly irresponsible and an affront to commuters who ultimately foot the bill.
?For nearly a decade the DRPA spent itself into a steep hole,? stated Amodeo, R-Atlantic. ?Now, despite strangling debt and a deepening recession in which hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs nationwide, its officials are planning to play Santa by handing out salary increases to its chief executive and staff. That?s a slap in the face to every struggling family and to every commuter who recently saw their tolls increased.?
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, $117 million or 41 percent of DRPA?s proposed $281.5 million budget will be used to pay down its debt while the agency?s 966 employees and its executive director, John Matheussen, will receive 3 percent pay raises, bringing Matheussen?s salary up to $226,059.
In September, DRPA imposed a $1 toll increase at the four toll bridges it operates between Philadelphia and South Jersey to pay for $1 billion in bridge repairs and upgrades to PATCO ? its commuter-rail line – over the next five years. Tolls are scheduled to increase again in 2010.
?DRPA saddled commuters with a toll hike a few months ago supposedly to pay for bridge repairs,? said Amodeo, who noted that the agency still has $35 million left from previous borrowing to ?spend? on non-road projects. ?I find that rather disingenuous considering that for nearly 10 years agency officials seemed to have more than enough money to finance economic development projects throughout Pennsylvania which are now coming due and eating into its budget as debt service.
“Because the DRPA can’t manage a budget, commuters in South Jersey have to pay more with little hope of getting our fair share of transportation improvements. The governor has to clean house.”