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Budget Declares War on the Environment

Date : Fri, 13 Mar 2009 14:37:43 -0400

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2009 Contact: Jeff Tittel, Chapter Director

(609) 558-9100

Governor's Budget Declares War on the Environment

Trenton - The New Jersey Sierra Club on Friday denounced Gov. Jon Corzine's proposed 2010 budget, which slashes funding for the Department of Environmental Protection and would be disastrous for the health and safety of New Jersey's residents.

"With this budget, the Governor is undermining the environment, threatening clean air and water, and hurting our economy," said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. "These reductions will have a tangible negative impact on the state; jobs will be lost, parks will close, permits for roads and bridges will stall. As a result, New Jersey won't be able to take advantage of the stimulus money dedicated to shovel ready projects."

Gov. Corzine's budget guts DEP funding by 25% from 2008, to just $360 million. Natural Resource Management funding will be cut a third, down to $58 million from $83 million two years ago.

"There will be real consequences if the Governor goes through with this budget," Tittel said. "Open space is a $3.9 billion industry in New Jersey. By gutting Natural Resource Management's funds, parks will close, historic sites will be in disrepair, and recreational areas will be eliminated. That will impact tourism, undermining thousands of jobs and hurting our economy."

The 2010 budget will strip DEP's staff to inoperable levels. The Governor's spending plan will eliminate as many as 550 DEP employees, bringing the total staff to an estimated 2,450 or equivalent work hours. In 1994, DEP had 4,000 employees. Since Gov. Corzine came into office, he has already slashed the staff from 3,400 to 3,000 people. This 2010 budget would reduce those already low numbers to even less.

"Because of the drastic staff cuts during the Whitman years, previous governors have protected DEP personnel," Tittel said. "Corzine is not protecting the DEP, he is stripping it of resources. This reduction will leave DEP at beyond bare bones; it simply won't be able to function effectively,"

"The Governor says he cares about jobs, but he'll cut 550 jobs from DEP," Tittel said. "Without sufficient staff, who will write the permits to build the bridges and roads that are needed to get our economy back on track? By cutting DEP staff by such large numbers, the Governor is effectively crippling the state's economy."

There is plenty of money to fund those DEP positions that the Governor wants to eliminate. While the budget estimates $410 million in DEP revenues - collected through fees, fines and grants - it allocates $50 million less to the department. Instead of using those DEP-generated monies to adequately fund important programs, the Governor is essentially stealing from DEP to finance other departments.

"We understand in these economic times it's important to share the pain, but this goes too far," Tittel said. "These funds are intended for important programs. This budget robs DEP of its money and spends it on other purposes."

The 2010 budget will slash funding in half for the Site Remediation Program, leaving its budget at $38 million, down from $77 million in 2008. It will also eliminate half of the staff for that program. "These budget cuts, coupled with the implementation of a Licensed Site Professional program, are just the beginning of a privatization of DEP," Tittel said.

DEP said they would not cut funds for the Site Remediation Program if and when a Licensed Site Professional Program is implemented. Allocated funds were intended to be used to concentrate on the remediation of recalcitrant sites. Half the money, or $15 million, saved from these personnel cuts will be spent as tax cut to business.

In addition to taking a hatchet to the Natural Resources Management budget and the Site Remediation Program, several other DEP programs will be financially at risk. The budget for DEP grants will be cut from $75.8 million to $14.9 million in 2010. The allocation for capital program will go from $221 million down to a stunning $77 million. The Governor's budget also proposes to cut in half the payments in lieu to municipalities for open space.

"There's no money for open space in the budget but Gov. Corzine will allow toxic polluters to certify that sites are clean instead of the professionals at DEP," Tittel said. "This budget is deplorable. It will hurt New Jersey's environment and economy for years to come."

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609.656.7612

(f) 609.656.7618

<http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org

Received on 2009-03-13 11:50:02

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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