Pennsylvania's chief fiscal watchdog has released a report blasting the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's financial management.

 

Auditor General Jack Wagner says too many people are allowed to drive without charge on the turnpike.

 

He said 7,600 free passes have been issued to employees, contractors, consultants and state police.

"We firmly believe there's too many free passes out there," he said. "Employees should be able to drive the turnpike for nothing for work and work-related purposes, but not all the time."

Wagner says some of the workers avoiding tolls by using their ID badge also have fave free E-ZPasses. The free passes are contributing to the turnpike's debt.

That debt has "gone up 250 percent in the last five years," Wagner said. "They are drowning in debt and their operating revenues are not increasing unless they are increasing tolls. In other words. traffic is not increasing on the turnpike."

The auditor general, whose term expires next week, offered the agency a prescription for its fiscal woes.

"They have to have get control of free passes.  They have to make sure commissioners are not spending excessively.  They have to disengage with interest rate swaps that have caused them $100 million dollars in losses," Wagner said. "There are a multitude of things that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has to do to get their fiscal house in order."

In its response to the audit, the turnpike commission says it's working on ways to make employees answer for their travel and to make the agency operate more efficiently.