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Christie’s Budget Targets DEP

Date : Tue, 21 Feb 2012 17:27:41 -0500

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Christie’s Budget Targets DEP

Governor Christie continues to attack the environment and promote harmful policies through his 2012 Budget.This is a continuation of the damage done by his last two budgets, hurting the environment and economy. The DEP operational budget will be shrinking by close to 2%, down by potentially $4 million to $210 million.The DEP overall budget will be approximately $363 million, down from $392 million two years ago.This decrease in the budget comes as the DEP capital budget is increasing.More funds will be diverted from the DEP to close other budget gaps while DEP staff reaches historic lows.The Governor projects the budget to grow by $2 billion but the DEP will still be cut.Most of the DEP budget, over 75%, comes from fees, fines, and federal grants.

"The Governor did not mention the environment in his speech because with his record he would be ashamed to as it is nothing but cuts and weakenings.They want to give 10% tax cuts to the wealthy while cutting the DEP budget.There will not be enough staff to ensure our air is clean, our water is safe, our toxic sites are cleaned up, and our parks are open," said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club. DEP funding for staffing could be as low as $210 million, decreasing from $214 million last year.The Governor slashed staff funding by 15% in his first budget.DEP staff costs are increasing with rising healthcare costs, promotions, and the cost of living, and this budget does not keep up with those increases.In FY2008 the Department’s budget was $248 million. DEP staff is down by almost 40% since the mid-1990’s and is close to the lowest point in its history.In 1995 the DEP operating budget was $329 million.DEP staffing is already at a record low and with the hiring freeze in place many positions remain unfilled as staff retires.There are probably hundreds of positions that are unfilled.In the mid-90’s the DEP had 4400 employees.DEP currently has 2877 positions and the Governor wants to cut that back to 2829 under the budget.While the Department’s staffing continues to be cut drastically, major programs have been added including clean cars, Highlands, and global warming.With the economy starting to turn around there may not be even be enough staff to write the permits to help get businesses and our economy going.

"The DEP still faces a death by a thousand cuts.They are eliminating more staff as part of their rollbacks on environmental protections.They are going to use this budget to outsource, privatize, and weaken environmental protections.The DEP operational budget is shrinking while the overall budget is growing by $2 million dollars," said Jeff Tittel. There will be increases for watershed management, brownfield redevelopment, diesel programs, and parks capital improvements as a result of increases in the corporate tax revenue.This funding was constitutionally dedicated in 1998 to prevent Governors from raiding the DEP budget. The Green Acres Program funding will mostly likely remain the same as last year, which is about a 45% reduction from 4 years ago. $135 million will go to the program now versus $250 million in FY2008.The average over the past eleven years has been $235 million.There is still no stable source of funding and the Governor has not issued the 2009 bonds. The $500,000 going to the Global Warming Response Act fund is the last of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative money.Last year the Governor announced New Jersey will no longer be participating in the RGGI auctions so no new revenue will be coming in. The Sierra Club is concerned this budget will be used to privatize functions of the DEP.The Governor has already released a plan to privatize our parks calling for more concessions and outsourcing educational programs.The DEP replaced the Superintendent of Island Beach State Park with a clear political appointment after the former Superintendent raised concerns about the administration’s plans to privatize our state parks.The administration’s Red Tape Review Group Report calls for more privatization of land use permits and expanding the model used to privatize the Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program to other DEP program areas. This budget proposal continues Governor Christie’s attacks on the environment and DEP, along with the DEP Waiver Rule, the State Strategic Plan, rollbacks to various DEP programs including stormwater, wetlands, stream encroachment, water quality management planning, site remediation, beach access, and flood hazard areas.The administration continues to promote industry interests and removing staff that have knowledge of regulated areas to different programs.Essentially this budget is another step in turning the DEP over to industry.

"The biggest threat to New Jersey’s environment is not just the budget but also the changes that are taking place in DEP: weakening protections and bringing in industry lobbyists to undermine public health and safety," said Jeff Tittel.

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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