The New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike, takes a lot of grief - deservedly, sad to say.

The people of South Jersey often feel left out of major decisions regarding the parkway, which down here is more local road than state highway.

And a 2010 audit by the Office of the State Comptroller uncovered jaw-dropping waste and extravagance at the authority.

According to the audit, the authority squandered $43 million on unwarranted perks for its employees in 2008 and 2009.

Workers got bonuses for shoveling snow and for working on their birthdays. They got bonuses for working holidays - in addition to holiday double-time. They got free E-ZPass transponders for their commutes to work. They also got "productivity bonuses," which an authority official admitted to The Star-Ledger were paid for employees simply doing their jobs.

Outrageous? Yup.

But today we are going to praise the Turnpike Authority and its unions for a new contract that eliminates the outrageous perks.

Bonuses for shoveling snow and for working when the governor has declared a state of emergency have been eliminated in the new contract for 100 toll supervisors and for 150 maintenance and administrative workers.

At the beginning of 2014, the workers will give up their toll-free commutes under the new pact, which also grants raises of 1 percent this year and 1.75 percent next year. The agreement will be in effect until October 2015.

The extravagant perks were previously eliminated for other workers, as their contracts expired. A follow-up audit by the Comptroller's Office in January found that the authority had implemented all but two of the initial audit's 17 recommendations.

All in all - a success story.

Of course the looming threat of privatization and the eventual transition to cashless tolls made the authority's unions more willing to negotiate. But still, authority and labor officials deserve praise for a relatively quick transition from an out-of-control culture to a more responsible one. The authority's operating budget for 2013 is the lowest it has been since 2007.

The change also shows that the stinging audits by the Comptroller's Office don't just shine a light on waste - they also lead to actual change.