Open Space Preservation Funding Source Sought
By Phil Gregory, WBGO News
Trenton. February 4, 2013
The last of the 2009 bond funds for open space preservation in New Jersey have been allocated. State lawmakers are examining ways of providing money for future preservation efforts.
Most of the groups testifying before the Senate Environment Committee support dedicating $200 million annually in state sales tax revenue for at least 20 years to provide a stable long-term source of open space funding.
But, Mike Pisauro with the New Jersey Environmental Lobby is concerned that might result in budget cuts for other environmental programs.
“Protecting open space is vitally important, but protecting clean water, protecting contamination sites, protecting clean air is also vitally important. So we cannot sacrifice one program for the other.”
Eileen Swan with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation says another bond act is not the way to go.
“We’ve used it in the past. However we wanted to move away from that short-term band aid approach.”
Another proposal calls for a tax on water use to fund open space projects.
Kelly Mooij with the Keep It Green coalition says that might not generate enough money.
“This would represent a 25 percent reduction, and we will not be able to meet all of our critical needs if we do that.”
New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel supports the water surcharge idea.
“We think the water fee is the best way to go and we can adjust it upward and come up with some supplemental funding to get it close to $200 million.’
Environment committee chairman Bob Smith is hoping for a consensus on a funding mechanism so it can go on the November ballot for voters to approve.