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Where Are the Democrats on the Christie Budget Cuts?

Date : Wed, 16 Jun 2010 15:22:09 -0400

 

 _____ For Immediate Release
June 16, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

Where Are the Democrats on the Christie Budget Cuts?

Trenton -- The Democrats seem to be missing in action when dealing with Christie budget cuts. The Sierra Club is concerned that there is no one standing up for the environment and the people of New Jersey on these cuts. The Democratic Party has lost its way and is letting Christie roll over them. New Jersey has a budget crisis and now it has a crisis of leadership.

The Christie Administration budget cuts will affect many of the programs that the Democratic Party helped pass and implement. Do the democrats in the legislature want to get rid of green jobs that will stimulate the economy? Do they want to cut parks so that the people of New Jersey cannot visit them? Do they want to roll back climate protections and water protections? Do they want to get rid of family planning? The Christie cuts are undermining these programs with help from the democrats. The democrats are trying to offer up votes to pass the republican budget when they are in control of the legislature. Why aren't the democrats coming up with a budget they believe in, if they believe in anything anymore?

"The democrats have control over the legislature and the budget process. Instead of standing up for the people of New Jersey and the environment, they seem to be taking a back seat to the governor. There are many core programs that are vital to the state that are under attack from this budget," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

The FY2011 budget combed with the red tape task force, the privatization task force, the governor's Executive Orders and Administrative Order have declared war on the environment. It cuts many important programs designed to reduce greenhouse gases, create green jobs, and curb climate change.

The democrats in the legislature are trying to rush through bills to support the Christie budget. Assembly bill A2486, sponsored by Assemblyman Burzichelli, is actually more anti-environment than the Christie Administration. This bill says that no New Jersey rule should be stricter than federal rules. Governor Christie's Executive Order had a provision for New Jersey-specific rules that the Burzichelli bill doesn't even have.

"There seems to be divided leadership in the Democratic Party. No one is going toe to toe with the governor," Tittel said.

Governor Christie has announced that he will cut money for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and $68 million in programs funded by RGGI will be eliminated. RGGI, a compact with multiple states in the Northeast, was established to create programs that reduce the greenhouse gas footprint. Programs help pay for clean energy programs that reduce carbon and create jobs. By slashing this fund, the Governor isn't just hurting the environment, he's robbing money for green jobs.

The budget slashes the Clean Energy Fund by a total of $52 million - $42 million in direct cuts and $10 million in diversions. These cuts will significantly reduce the amount of money available to reimburse residents for solar installations and high efficiency appliances, like furnaces and air conditioners. These cuts to the Clean Energy Fund are on top of the $158 robbed from the fund in FY 2010. The Clean Energy Fund is dedicated by the Legislature, so the Governor's cuts to the fund are a one-shot gimmick.

The Governor's budget eliminates the Retail Margin Fund. Just $13.9 million was left in the Retail Margin Fund after a $128 million cut in the FY 2010 budget. The Retail Margin Fund helps businesses to build cogeneration and combined heat and power sources. It helps to build power plants, heat buildings, and produce electricity from natural gas.

The Governor also announced he will slash DEP funding to historic lows. The DEP's operating budget will be cut by $15 million, from $215 million down to $200 million. In just two years, DEP funding has been slashed by about a third - from $277 million down to $200 million. At least $40 million from the DEP budget that comes from fees, fines, and grants will be diverted to the General Fund.

The budget also proposes the complete elimination of state funding for family planning services. Last year, over $7 million was allocated for basic reproductive health care services. We believe it's critical to provide adequate family planning funding, as population growth increases the demand on natural resources and impacts the entire global environment.

The Governor plans to take $15 million from the constitutionally-dedicated CBT (Corporate Business Tax), which traditionally goes to environmental programs that create jobs, like fixing parks or helping towns to do watershed planning to meet stormwater rules. CBT monies also go to retrofit diesel school buses, helping to reduce asthma in children.

This budget cuts environmental planning and forest resource management. Funding for state parks is being cut by 40%. The budget is also taking $10 million dedicated to replace trees removed for widening of the turnpike and parkway for running the parks.

The nonlethal bear management program was eliminated and replaced by a bear hunt. There will be no bear education programs, which will create more nuisance bear problems.

This budget reduces funding for the Highlands from $12 million to $4.4 million and cuts direct aid for municipalities in the Highlands and Pinelands by $7.6 million. Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which helps municipalities make up for loss tax revenue when buying open space, will be slashed from $10 million to $6.5 million.

The 2011 budget also calls for the elimination of the Office of Climate Change, taking direct aim at clean energy program and efforts to fight climate change.

"Many of the important programs were passed by the democrats like the Global Warming Response Act and the Highlands Act. Now the democrats in the legislature are letting the Christie Administration repeal these programs, not through legislation but through the budget. It's a backdoor attack on public health, safety and the environment, and the democrats seem to be going along with it," said Tittel.

###

Christine Guhl Program Assistant New Jersey Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 Tel: (609) 656-7612 Fax: (609) 656-7618 christine.guhl_at_sierraclub.org

Received on 2010-06-16 12:22:09

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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