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Environmental Bills on Governor Christie’s Desk

Date : Fri, 29 Jun 2012 12:49:19 -0400

For Immediate Release
June 29, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Environmental Bills on Governor Christie’s Desk

Sierra Club Opposes

Permit Extension Act*Rolls Back Protection in Highlands and Pinelands*

S743(Sarlo) takes the side of developers over the environment, our water supply, and the health of the people of New Jersey.The Permit Extension Act passed 35 to 1 with 4 absentions. Under this bill developers will be able to ignore updated environmental laws, public health standards, building codes, and local zoning changes. The Permit Extension Act will extend developers permits until 2014, allowing builders to evade updated environmental protections.This legislation is even worse than before because it includes the Highlands and Pinelands and the "Dracula Clause," which would bring back bad projects where permits and approvals have expired.This bill takes the side of developers over our communities and environment.With this bill we will see increased flooding, water pollution, and other environmental problems.The Barnegat Bay, the Highlands, and Pinelands will be the hardest hit by this legislation.

"The Legislature took the side of special interests over protecting open space and the drinking water of New Jersey. This is the power of builder's campaign money pushing aside the rights of citizens and communities.This is one of the worst bills ever passed by the Legislature and they keep making it worse with extension after extension. Now they want to pave over even more environmentally sensitive areas," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.* "This bill targets environmentally sensitive areas throughout New Jersey especially the Highlands, Pinelands, and Barnegat Bay. This legislation takes the side of developers interests over public interest. It takes the side of sprawl and over development over protecting water supply and natural resources."

Transportation Trust Fund Gimmick

S2020(Hozaplfel) amends the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority Act of 1984 by allowing the state to borrow an additional $1.25 billion for the 2013 transportation program. This legislation is just continuing the cycle of borrowing, spending, and diverting money from other sources instead of coming up with a long term fix for New Jersey’s transportation needs. This bill asks for $261 million more in borrowing then what Governor Christie had initially proposed in his 5 year plan. This shows Governor Christie is yet again delaying the problem instead of presenting a real solution to fund the Transportation Trust Fund.New Jersey needs a stable source of funding for transportation because without one we will hurt our economy, cost New Jersey jobs, and will keep people stuck in traffic longer adding to pollution.

"This is Bernie Madoff accounting.They are shifting money around, borrowing, and going into debt over operation and maintenance for transportation.This is a new wrinkle on what has been a long standing con game by politicians in New Jersey.We are going to be borrowing money to pave roads that are going to be paved again four more times before the bonds are paid off," said Jeff Tittel.

More Tax Payer Giveaways to Corporations: Urban Transit Tax Credits

S1562would increase the amount of tax credits given under the "Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Act". This is just another giveaway to the special interests and corporations in New Jersey.The increase would be from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion and an increase in tax credits for "Grow New Jersey Assistance Act" from $200 million to $400 million.4% of the Corporate Business Tax is dedicated to environmental programs including watershed protection, cleaning up environmental sites, retro fitting diesel for school buses, and fixing our state parks. By taking this money away from these programs the Governor is hurting jobs in New Jersey and the environment. National studies from Universities and independent Think Tanks show that these subsidies do not create jobs, but enrich those getting the funds. Also by moving companies from one town to the other hurts the regional economy. This is more about corporate welfare then a job creating program. All these projects still would have been done without the subsidies.All that was done was money being taken away from the tax payers of New Jersey for corporate tax breaks.

"Governor Christie has given out more money to developers than any Governor in history and has fewer jobs to show for it.He has already given out more than a billion and a half dollars to corporations while New Jersey lags in job growth," said Jeff Tittel."Monies for cleaning up toxic sites and fixing our parks will create many more jobs than this corporate welfare.Independent studies show that these types of giveaways do not work and do no create new jobs."

Sierra Club Supports

From Foreclosed to Affordable

S1566 (Lesniak) will turn foreclosed properties into affordable housing.The New Jersey Sierra Club believes that this legislation is an important step forward in helping New Jersey to meet its affordable housing goals, while at the same time revitalizing many of our communities. Foreclosed and abandoned properties become a blight in our neighborhoods causing further decay and decline in our communities. This legislation will help turn those properties back into homes helping families have good places to live and helping to rejuvenate many neighborhoods. We also believe that this is important not only for affordable housing, but to help protect environmentally sensitive areas and open space. By turning these properties into affordable housing we also take the pressure off of builder remedy lawsuits and large scale inclusion zoning projects in environmental sensitive areas. There are also many projects like this is suburban and rural areas that can be used as affordable housing taking the pressure off of green spaces. We believe this legislation is good because it provides affordable housing, revitalizes the community and helps protects open space and environmentally sensitive areas.

"This legislation is desperately needed by many people in New Jersey: disabled veterans, handicapped adults, young families.We are taking what is a blight in the neighborhood and putting new vitality in that community.This not only helps those in need of affordable housing but the neighboring families at the same time," said Jeff Tittel. "This helps towns meet their affordable housing obligations helping towns dodge builder remedy lawsuits."

Affordable Housing Fees

S2011(Stack) extends the timeframe municipalities have to spend dollars collected for affordable housing projects.This bill would lengthen the deadline from four to six years to prevent the money from being transferred to the New Jersey Affordable Housing Fund.Governor Christie plans to use money transferred into the Fund to close budget holes, not to finance affordable housing projects.

"Towns’ affordable housing obligations do not go away if the Governor steals this money.This money is supposed to help towns meet their affordable housing obligation, whether you support that or not.Without this funding towns will be hit with builder remedy lawsuits, forcing overdevelopment and threatening our environmentally sensitive areas and last remaining open spaces.This money can be used instead to help communities grow while meeting their housing obligations in a responsible way. We hope that the Governor will sign this legislation.However we think the Governor will do what is fiscally irresponsible and promotes sprawl: veto the bill," said Jeff Tittel.

Helping Preserve Open Space

S2011(Van Drew) restores Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) funding for municipalities with preserved open space.The money goes to towns that have a lot of open space to make up for lost tax revenues when lands are bought for open space purposes.This money helps the towns support open space acquisition because it makes up for lost revenue.This encourages towns to support new open space acquisitions.Open space can cause the need for municipal services such as police and fire fighters and helps provide those services.This program is important for preserving lands in the Highlands, Pinelands, and Delaware Bay Shore.

"This is an important funding source for towns to help them support and deal with funding issues that arise from having a lot of open space in their community.Without the PILOT program we would lose support from many communities that are concerned about the loss of tax bases and cost of services to maintain these lands.This is a good deal for the people of New Jersey who get to use the parklands while helping those communities that host our public parks and forests," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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