If Governor Christie of New Jersey or Governor Cuomo of New York hope to be elected president or vice president, or be re-elected governor, on the basis of balancing their state budgets without raising taxes, they will want to do whatever they can to squash the proposal from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which they control — to raise tolls to $17 from $8 for the Port Authority's bridges and tunnels.
The proposal, while outrageous, is nonetheless illuminating as an example of the political culture. Again and again, political leaders choose to delegate powers to unelected and unaccountable bodies — whether it is Congress delegating monetary policy to the Federal Reserve or these governors delegating the bridges and tunnels and airports to the Port Authority. The governors' statement says, "It is our joint intention to cooperatively address this issue without regard for partisanship or parochialism, as was the intention and spirit of the creation of the Port Authority as a regional entity in 1921." But sometimes a little — well, if not partisanship or parochialism, at least politics is useful, particularly if it keeps tolls down. These governors appoint the members of the Port Authority, and voters shouldn't be fooled by the pretending that the Authority is somehow distinct from the governors.
And it's also worth remembering how situational this pretended distinction is. When the Port Authority does something the governors are proud of, like accomplish something in rebuilding ground zero, the governors are quick to claim credit as if they deserve it themselves. But when the Port Authority does something the governors want to distance themselves from, they pretend they have nothing to do with it.
It's also an example of the behavioral economics phenomenon of anchoring. Once $9, or 112.5%, has been established in the public discussion as the opening bid for a toll increase, then drivers and voters are expected to be grateful and breath a sigh of relief when in the end, after the politicians intervene, the tolls only go up by a mere $4, or 50%. Like a lot of what passes from the mouths of government officials, it's not a bottom-line position, it's just an opening gambit, or posturing for position in advance of an eventual compromise.