TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today testified in front of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, urging legislators to act this year to put a long-term source of sustainable preservation funding in place.
“With the last of the 2009 bond funds for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs now allocated, there is an urgent need for action this year,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “NJ Keep It Green thanks Senator Smith and the members of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee for opening up the dialogue and considering the options for ensuring continued funding for vital land, water and historic preservation efforts.”
NJ Keep It Green supports dedicating at least $200 million annually for at least 20 years to fund the full suite of preservation programs – Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation.
In addition, NJ Keep It Green supports allocating between 10 and 20 percent of those funds annually to ensure better stewardship of preserved lands, parks and historic sites that in many cases are suffering from neglect and inadequate funding.
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee heard discussion on several bills that – through different mechanisms – would provide varying levels of funding for preservation programs. The bills are SCR138, S2529, S2530, S813.
“Of the options being considered today, dedicating $200 million annually in sales tax revenues for 30 years would most closely meet NJ Keep It Green’s goals and provide the annual level of funding that is needed on a long-term basis to address critical needs,” Mooij said. “The legislation, however, should be amended to dedicate between 10 and 20 percent of the funds annually to stewardship. When you buy a house, you have to invest to maintain it. The same concept applies to our parks, lands and historic sites.”
Mooij also stressed that in order to be successful the funding mechanism must have broad, bipartisan and public support. To that point, NJ Keep It Green last year commissioned a survey of 600 registered voters that found 75 percent would support dedicating $200 million annually for 30 years for open space, farmland and historic preservation. The survey also found 77 percent support for dedicating $200 million annually in sales tax revenues specifically.
Based on FY12 revenues, $200 million represents less than 1 percent of total state revenues and less than one fifth of one cent of the seven-cent sales tax.
“The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the successful Garden State Preservation Trust Act, approved by voters in 1998,” said former state Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden, “The Garden State Preservation Trust is the most successful preservation initiative in the state’s history, and one of the most successful in the nation. It makes sense to put something similar in place based upon this track record of success.”
About NJ Keep It Green
NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 175 park and conservation advocates working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.