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Enviro Groups Oppose Sales Tax Dedication for Open Space Funding


Date : Fri, 21 Jun 2013 15:09:12 -0400

Space Funding

For Immediate Release

June 21, 2013

Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100 <tel:609-558-9100>

Enviro Groups Oppose Sales Tax Dedication for Open Space Funding


Today environmental groups sent a letter to members of the New Jersey Assembly asking them to oppose SCR138/ACR179, which would dedicate a portion of the sales tax to open space funding.See the letter from four organizations below.

June 21, 2013

Members of the New Jersey Assembly

RE: Concerns with Legislature's Proposed Environmental Agenda

Dear Assembly Representatives,

As we prepare for the upcoming summer recess, a number of concerning environmental bills are moving forward.The undersigned groups are dedicated to the preservation of open space in our state but believe this must be done in a fiscally responsible manner.Because of these concerns we cannot endorse the use of a sales tax dedication to fund these purchases as proposed under SCR138/ACR179.New Jersey has already seen a shortfall in revenue and sales tax and this open space dedication will cause cuts to other essential programs and core governmental programs including DEP, education, healthcare and property tax relief.The last time sales tax was used to fund open space the sales tax revenue was increasing by $500 million a year and now it is decreasing.According to the Office of Legislative Services (OLS), over the 30 year life of the program the sales tax dedication will cost $17 billion.The sales tax dedication will cost $275 million next year and eventually going up to $840 million a year.It is a regressive tax where urban areas will provide 80% of the funding and only receive 20% of the benefit, having land preserved in their neighborhoods.There is no funding to create new state parks or recreation areas for people to use under this proposal- the money is primarily going to purchasing new forest lands, new wildlife management area land, and development rights.This is the result of not having the staff in DEP to maintain the lands we have already preserved and there is no proposed funding to increase that staffing.

OLS has also announced there will be a $1 billion shortfall in this year's budget and there are additional funding obligations the state needs to meet.The Governor has hinted at plans to fund a portion of the Transportation Trust Fund, $600 million, with sales tax revenue. $194 million has been cut from the Clean Energy Fund that needs to be restored.$46 billion is needed for water and sewer infrastructure improvements across the state, including $8 billion to address combined sewer overflows.Pension payments will need to increase in coming years.Given the current shortfalls in revenue and projected costs,
SCR138/ACR179 is fiscally irresponsible.

Further, we are concerned that this legislation will be used to provide cover for a number of unquestionably environmental friendly bills that may not move while environmentally damaging ones are currently moving and may pass before the summer break.

Below outlines the environmental priorities for the undersigned groups and what we hope the Legislature will adopt as your environmental agenda for _the next week_:

1.)Fracking Waste Ban Bill S253/A575: *should be passed by the Legislature

2.)Logging Bill S1085/A2837: *should not move without amendment to require the Forest Stewardship Council guidelines be adopted by the DEP through Administrative Procedures Act (before the Assembly Monday)

3.)Exempting Sewage Discharges S2322/A3849: this bill should not move unless significantly narrowed (before Senate Budget Committee Monday)

4.)Restore Clean Energy Funding to FY2014 Budget.$194 million has been diverted to close budget gaps and these cuts will only increase in future budgets if SCR138/ACR179 is approved.

5.)Take Action on Sandy Resiliency Legislation: Following Hurricane, the Legislature's agenda has not been strong enough nor moving fast enough.We urge action on important legislation closing CAFRA loopholes
A3921, ending CAFRA exemptions for impacting dunes S2602/A3893, and adopting updated flood mapping S2208/A3262

Thank you for considering these comments.

Sincerely,

Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club

Dave Pringle, Campaign Director, New Jersey Environmental Federation

Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Jim Walsh, Eastern Region Director, Food and Water Watch

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2013-06-21 12:09:12

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