Coalition Calls Upon Assembly to Schedule a Vote Without Further Delay
TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, a statewide coalition of more than 180 park, agricultural, historic preservation and conservation organizations, today applauded the New Jersey Senate for scheduling a vote for Monday, July 29 on legislation that would ask voters to create a sustainable source funding for critical open space, water supply and flood-plain protection, farmland and historic preservation programs across the state.
“The Senate continues to demonstrate tremendous leadership on this issue, and we especially thank Senate President Sweeney and Senators Smith and Bateman for recognizing the urgency in addressing funding for vital land, water and historic preservation programs this year,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert. “We strongly urge the Assembly to follow suit without further delay and give New Jersey citizens the chance to vote this November in favor of dedicated funding to protect open space, water supplies and flood-prone areas, farmland and historic sites throughout the state.”
The Legislature must approve the bills (SCR160/ACR 205) by Aug. 1 in order for the question to be placed on the ballot the November.
The landmark legislation would ask voters to dedicate a small percentage of state sales-tax revenues to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs.
The Senate already passed similar legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support (36 to 2). The legislation was amended and reintroduced to dedicate a flat $200 million annually in sales-tax revenues, the average annual investment the state has been making in preservation efforts since 1998.
“NJ Keep It Green is deeply appreciative of the bipartisan leaders who are championing these bills and who understand that without a sustainable approach to funding, preservation projects across the state will grind to a halt, threatening to undo decades of progress that have made New Jersey a national leader in open space preservation,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator. “If our elected leaders fail to pass this measure, New Jersey is at risk of losing thousands of acres of critical lands that protect our water supply, guard against flooding, and support the agriculture industry and our state’s economy.”
The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Robert Smith and Christopher “Kip” Bateman and Reps. Grace Spencer, John McKeon, Louis Greenwald, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Charles Mainor, Herb Conaway and Jason O’Donnell for this generation and future generations.”
The proposed legislation is a fiscally responsible approach that does not increase taxes or state debt. The $200 million dedication represents less than 1 percent of the state budget. The funds would come from the projected growth of more than $400 million annually in sales taxes revenues leaving hundreds of millions of dollars available to fund other programs above and beyond today’s levels.
Approximately 20 percent of the state, or one million acres, still remain unprotected and developable. Yet there is a significant need to preserve hundreds of thousands of critical acres of open space, drinking water sources, and natural buffers along the coast and in-land waterways that will help prevent future flood and storm damage. Further, an additional 350,000 acres of farmland need to be preserved to maintain a viable agricultural industry.
Agriculture is the state’s third largest industry, with the state’s more than 10,000 farms generating at least a billion dollars annually.
Moreover, every $1 invested in state land preservation efforts returns $10 in economic value to the state through nature’s goods and services, like flood control and water filtration, which would otherwise have to be paid for by taxpayers.
Since 1961 New Jersey voters have passed 13 out of 13 ballot measures supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation. Voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming bipartisan support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding.
A NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey recently of 600 registered likely voters found that 69 percent of voters support dedicating $200 million annually from state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.
Since the start of the year 16 counties – Bergen, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – and more than 60 municipalities have passed resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.
About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 180 park and conservation advocacy groups 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.