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Budget Bills Attack the Environment and Public's Rights

Date : Wed, 23 Jun 2010 15:15:59 -0400

For Immediate Release
Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100 June 23, 2010

Budget Bills Attack the Environment and Public's Rights

New Jersey's FY2011 budget deadline is approaching and the environment and public's rights are under siege. This budget cuts many important programs designed to reduce greenhouse gases, create green jobs, and curb climate change. The Senate has introduced new bills to deal with budget gimmicks which are robbing funds from programs that create jobs, help the environment and aid in government access.

"This wasn't a budget deal, this was a surrender. The Democrats have been complicit in the governor's attack on the environment through a budget that undermines or weakens many environmental programs," said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director.

There are plenty of other places to get the money to restore these critical programs, such stranded assets which are subsidies to nuclear power and business tax cuts. When money is taken from dedicated funds and put into the general fund it is actually a tax increase.

Governor Christie's budget cuts 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. Cuts to the Clean Energy Fund will cost the state 4,000 jobs. 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. Taking money from a dedicated source is just a hidden tax.

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.

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. Cutting parks will affect tourism in the state and hurt the economy. Every year $17 million people visit New Jersey's parks contributed $3.9 billion to the economy.

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.

S2090

* S2090, proposed by Senator Ciesla, extends the waiver for new car inspections for five years and eliminates safety inspections for certain motor vehicles. The Sierra Club opposes S2090 because it will lead to more air pollution and more unsafe vehicles on the roads. * When automobile owners are required to have their vehicles inspected every year, they tend to have tune-ups, oil-changes and keep their tires inflated. These vehicles run more efficiently and produce fewer emissions. They are also safer. Extending inspections of new cars extending from four years to five means cars will go longer without maintenance. This extension will result in an increase in pollution and automobile accidents.

S2089

* S2089, sponsored by Senator Pennacchio, abolishes the Department of the Public Advocate. This agency has helped the public in cases of eminent domain abuse and assisted citizens in accessing government. The Sierra Club opposes this bill because it eliminates the citizens' rights to have representation when they have problems with government access. The Sierra Club applauded Governor Cody when he brought back the Public Advocate after Governor Whitman removed it. * Removing this department is not a cost savings since the DEP and other agencies have hired advocates for economic development to push through permits. This eliminates the public's right to have an advocate in government but gives a government insider to businesses.

S2140

* 2140, sponsored by Senator Bucco is the bill that steals $300 million from the Clean Energy Fund including the Retail Margin Fund, the Highlands and RGGI.

"We see this budget dismantling a lot of core environmental programs such as clean energy, the Highlands, global warming and parks, as well as governmental oversight. This budget declares war on the environment and the Democrats budget deal helps facilitate the destruction of many of the programs they helped bring about," Tittel said.

###

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 2010-06-23 12:15:59

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tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
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