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Senate Passes Economic Opportunity Act

Date : Mon, 19 Aug 2013 14:39:07 -0400

For Immediate Release

August 19, 2013

Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

Senate Passes Economic Opportunity Act

Today the Senate approved a major giveaway of tax payer dollars that targets some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the state.The Economic Opportunity Act S2583A3680 (LesniakCoutinho) passed 30-4 with 4 abstentions.The bill has now passed both houses and will go to the Governor's desk.The bill would provide tax incentives to develop environmentally sensitive areas, critical areas for water supply, and last remaining open spaces, including farmland, the Highlands and the Pinelands.This bill will take economic growth, jobs, and housing opportunities away from existing cities, towns, and suburban areas and subsidize them on our last remaining open spaces, threatening our water supply and increasing flooding.

"This bill is the great land rush of 2013.It is giving away millions of acres of environmentally sensitive lands to polluters and developers and paving over our farmlands and forests," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the Sierra Club. "This nothing but pay to pave. Politically connected developers are getting public subsidies to destroy environmentally sensitive areas and threaten our water supply.This is crony capitalism at its worst."

Amendments have made the bill slightly less bad but the bill still targets:

  • _Pinelands_villages and towns like Chatsworth and Tabernacle,
  • the entire _Highlands Planning Area_ even though two-thirds of
    that region is environmentally sensitive even 50 feet from Spruce
    Run Reservoir,

There are loopholes big enough to run bulldozers through for development State Planning Area (PA) 4A, PA 4B _Environmentally Sensitive Farmland_ and PA 5 _Environmentally Sensitive_

"This bill threatens some of the most environmentally sensitive areas left in New Jersey.This will promote sprawl in places like the Highlands, Pinelands, and our last remaining open spaces," said Jeff Tittel. "This nothing but pay to pave. Politically connected developers are getting public subsidies to destroy environmentally sensitive areas and threaten our water supply.This is capitalism at its worst."

The bill would subsidize development in some of the most important areas of the state for water supply- next to reservoirs, above water supply intakes, near aquifer recharge areas and well protection areas.This bill would subsidize sprawl development that will directly impact drinking water quality.

This bill will create more flooding and development in areas that were just destroyed in Hurricane Sandy.Further, the financing could be used for eminent domain and gentrification along the coast.

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 and hurting affordable housing.This shifts jobs and people to the suburbs.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 and the Highlands Planning Area are included in the final version passed by the Senate.It does not make sense to be promoting and funding growth in such rural and out of the way places.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 Opportunity 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."

The bill will allow EDA to bond billions of dollars for projects and then paying off those tax payer subsidized low cost 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.

Since the start of 2010 New Jersey has given 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.

"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 developing the Highlands and Pinelands which protect us from flooding."

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-08-19 11:39:07

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tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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