The Corzine Cosa Nostra hard at work: Governor enlists wealth of lobbyists who could gain from toll-hike plans

The 54 people hand-picked by Gov. Corzine to promote his toll-hike plan include lobbyists whose clients could gain from the project and 10 people linked to a construction advocacy group promoting opportunities to network with state leaders.The panel’s chairman and two other members work for the state’s three top lobbying firms, The Record of Bergen County reported for Sunday. They represent engineers, financial companies, resorts, and utilities, all industries with the potential to benefit if the governor’s multi-billion-dollar financial restructuring plan is approved.

Ten of the appointees are connected to the construction advocacy group Alliance for Action. Three others are top executives with Verizon, Trump Entertainment and Public Service Electric and Gas Co., businesses that have benefited from prior laws.

“There’s not a common denominator beyond wanting New Jersey to be a better place,” said Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton.

Corzine’s financial restructuring plan includes sharply higher tolls, the revenues from which will be used to pay down state debt and fund transportation projects. Tolls on the Turnpike, Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway would be affected.

Critics complain that Corzine’s panel lacks regular highway commuters.

Michael Riccards, executive director of the Hall Institute, a public policy group, suspects varying motives among committee members.

“There are people who are genuinely concerned and believe the governor has given them a plan to get out of the wilderness,” said Riccards. “There (also) are people who are looking to make a buck off this.”

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