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Funding Targets Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Date : Thu, 11 Apr 2013 11:48:08 -0400

For Immediate Release
April 3, 2013 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

Funding Targets Environmentally Sensitive Areas

The Economic Opportunity Act A3680 (Coutinho) will create the largest tax subsidy in state history.This legislation will be up tomorrow before the Assembly Budget Committee.Under this legislation developers who build residential, commercial, or office buildings can get massive tax payer subsidies.First through the EDA bonding billions of dollars for projects and then paying off those tax payer subsidized low coast bonds using the tax revenue that would normally go to state or local coffers.The state will lose billions in revenues while developers get rich at our expense.That loss in revenue could lead to increased taxes or cuts in services for the rest of us since those projects will still need services and infrastructure improvements.Independent studies by groups such as Good Jobs, Green Jobs has shown that these programs do not increase jobs they only enrich the corporations that benefit from the programs.These new office parks and commercial building may cause other facilities to close or as seen with Prudential, companies could move 4 blocks.

"The Economic Development Act is the greatest tax payer give away in New Jersey history.This is the biggest corporate subsidy anywhere in the country.It gives billion to developers to pave over our last remaining open spaces.This legislation will not benefit the people of New Jersey, only the wallets of politically connected developers.This bill is so open-ended that it does not have a fiscal note.It gives the key to the treasury to developers and their friends.Usually when someone makes this kind of money they are wearing a mask and holding a gun.The only jobs it will create is fro developer's corporate accountants who will count all the money they are getting at our expense," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the Sierra Club.* Under the Senate version of the bill another $650 million goes to the urban tax credit program, the Transit HUB program, which means even more cuts in state services.The corporate business tax where the money comes from also funds environmental programs so this will mean cuts to programs for brownfield remediation, parks capital repairs, cleaning up diesel engines, and protecting our drinking water . Developers can also take money from the Societal Benefits Charge and Clean Energy programs even if they do not meet green building standards. This was a bad concept when it was just in a few urban cities.Now it is going statewide and targeting some of our most environmentally sensitive areas like Barnegat Bay, the coast, the Highlands, and the Pinelands.This bill could promote growth in areas that were just destroyed by storm surge, putting money and property at risk.This financing could be used for eminent domain and to gentrify the coast to kick out middle class families and build high end luxury housing.This bill will provide funding through tax payer subsidies for new developments proposed in sensitive areas.This bill hurts development in appropriate areas by subsidizing growth in rural areas, taking away jobs and resources from our cities and existing communities.

"This is nothing but sprawl-fare, corporate welfare subsidizing overdevelopment and paving over of environmentally sensitive areas," said Jeff Tittel.

Jeff continued,"This bill will end up undermining development in our cities by subsiding growth in our last remaining open spaces.As long as we subsidize development on green fields we are discouraging redevelopment projects on brown fields and in urban areas.Instead ofrebuilding our coast smarter and better, this bill could be used to subsidize eminent domain projects for politically connected developers where working families currently live." Pinelands villages and towns should be taken out.It does not make sense to be promoting and funding growth in such rural and out of the way places.The Highlands should be removed entirely but at the very least only redevelopment projects or new developments on previously disturbed sites should be included.For example a portion of the BASF site can be funded where they have existing buildings and parking lots but the fundingshould not extend to undeveloped portions of the site.

"At a time when we need economic activity we need to promote that growth in the right places and not do it in the places that will hurt the environment and in the long term the economic viability of the state.We need to make sure we redevelop our cities and towns but not at the expense of our water supply and open spaces for future generations," said Jeff Tittel."Instead we should be targeting this money to urban areas and rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, not the Highlands and Pinelands which protect us from flooding." The Strategic Plan calls for growth areas in the Highlands and Pinelands to receive more infrastructure to support higher density development.This bill will now finance those infrastructure improvements, including sewers.Higher density developments would be serviced by new wastewater community treatment facilities or package plants, which will have serious impacts on water quality.

"Between the State Strategic Plan turning these areas into growth areas and now the Economic Development Act to fund that growth is a one-two punch to promote development in some of the last remaining open space areas in New Jersey,"said Jeff Tittel. "Many of these areas are environmentally sensitive forested lands without adequate sewer and water capacity.We are promoting growth in the some of the last remaining wild places of New Jersey." Since the start of 2010 New Jersey gave out $1.57 billion in corporate tax subsidies to 70 companies through 4 programs, while New Jersey home owners have seen their property taxes go up by about a billion dollars in the past year. In addition they are paying $387,000 in subsidies per new job and that is if we actually get the new jobs as promised.The top subsidies include $650 million to Xanadu/American Dream, $81 million to Goya Foods to move 5 miles and create 9 additional jobs, and $250 million for Prudential to move a few blocks in Newark.This bill will allow additional corporate subsides throughout the state at the expense of urban communities.

"The Highlands and Pinelands contain sensitive forests, critical habitats, and protect our drinking water supply.These are not areas that should be targeted for subsidized growth," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-04-11 08:48:08

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