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Sustaining New Jersey's Commitment to Parks, Open Space, Clean Water, Farmland and Historic Preservation

NJ Keep It Green represents more than 185 statewide, local and regional organizations committed to land conservation, agriculture, historic preservation, environmental protection, urban parks, hunting and fishing, and other forms of outdoor recreation, working together to sustain funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey's waterways, wildlife habitat, natural areas, farmland, forests, parks and historic sites for our quality of life and future generations.

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, as well as dedicated annual funding for capital improvements to state parks and other public lands. With funds from the 2009 bond act set to run dry in 2012, we are in the midst of a Sustainable Funding Campaign to secure a sustainable source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey's natural, recreational and historic treasures for generations to come.

We hope you will join us in this important effort!

March 22, 2014

 

STATE AND LOCAL LEADERS ADDRESS PRESERVATION NEEDS DURING 18th ANNUAL NJ LAND CONSERVATION RALLY

                                                                 

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Longtime open space champions Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex, Somerset) and Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris) today joined other state and community leaders in addressing New Jersey’s land preservation needs during the 18th Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally at Rutgers University in Piscataway.

 

“New Jersey’s open space preservation programs are in crisis,” said Smith, chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “There is no money left. The bank is empty. However, New Jersey has more than one million acres that still need to be protected. I remain committed to finding a long-term, stable source of funding to ensure that we preserve our land before it is too late.”

 

McKeon, vice chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, said: “The preservation of open space not only enhances our quality of life, but is key to New Jersey’s long-term economic health. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Legislature to advance funding for open space preservation and protect our land, air and water for today’s generation and future generations.”

 

The NJ Land Conservation Rally is a one-day educational conference about preserving New Jersey’s open space and farmland. The conference is organized by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and other partners.

 

Smith and McKeon made their comments during the conference’s Lightning Round session, sponsored by NJ Keep It Green. Other participants included Kinnelon Mayor Robert Collins; New Jersey Farm Bureau President Ryck Suydam, Steve Caldwell of Campmor Sporting and Outdoors Stores; Ben Spinelli, professor of Sustainability Studies at Kean University, and Elizabeth Newton, president of Rutgers University Naturalist Club. 

 

“State funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation has long helped municipalities across New Jersey leverage dollars to create parks, preserve our family farms and protect our historic treasures,” said Collins. “Without matching funds, local governments will be forced to scale back their activities, putting park and open space projects, and all the benefits they bring, at risk.”

 

Investments in open space bolster local economies and help control the cost of municipal services such as water filtration and stormwater control.  They also help maintain property values, improve the health of communities and enhance and protect quality of life. 

 

In addition to identifying at least 650,000 acres of open space that still need to be preserved in New Jersey, state officials have said at least 400,000 acres of farmland need to be protected in order to maintain a viable agriculture industry, the third largest in New Jersey.

 

“New Jersey farms provide families access to safe, healthy and locally grown food,” said Suydam. “Agriculture contributes billions of dollars to the state economy and supports tens of thousands of jobs.  We must invest in farmland preservation if we want to continue to be known as the Garden State.”

 

Caldwell, of Campmor Sporting and Outdoors Stores in Paramus, discussed the importance of parks and open space to New Jersey’s outdoor recreation and tourism industry.

 

“My company and countless other local businesses depend on people having access to parks and open space where they can hike, bike, kayak, look for wildlife and just enjoy the outdoors,” said Caldwell. “From a strictly business perspective, long-term funding for land preservation is a smart investment with great returns.”

 

Caldwell cited a report by the Outdoor Industry Association that found that outdoor recreation in New Jersey generates $17.8 billion in consumer spending, $6.1 billion in wages and salaries, $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue and 158,000 direct jobs.

 

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March 17, 2014

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN OPTIMISTIC AGREEMENT WILL BE REACHED ON LONG-TERM OPEN SPACE FUNDING

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation advocates, today said it was optimistic that an agreement will be reached on long-term funding for open space, park, farmland and historic preservation and voters will be allowed to have their say this year.

 

“NJ Keep It Green appreciates the bipartisan leadership from Senators Smith and Bateman to advance sustainable funding for Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation efforts,” said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep It Green. “With all funds from the 2009 bond measure fully allocated, there is a real urgency to find an approach to sustainable funding that can move forward in both the Senate and the Assembly this year.”

 

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee today voted 4-1 to advance newly introduced legislation (SCR84) that would ask voters to approve dedicating 6 percent of Corporate Business Tax revenues for open space, farmland and historic preservation.  The proposal would generate approximately $150 million annually for preservation and stewardship programs.

 

“SCR84 would provide a sustainable source of funding for preservation and stewardship over the next three decades, which is essential in order to meet the pressing preservation needs facing the Garden State,” Gilbert said. “However, the Coalition has concerns about the loss of funding that is currently dedicated to other environmental and park needs.” 

 

Four percent of the Corporate Business Tax revenues are already dedicated for other environmental programs and would be diverted for preservation and stewardship programs under the proposal.

 

“We are committed to working with legislative leaders to identify additional funds to address these needs, including park capital improvements, watershed management and underground storage tank removal,” Gilbert stressed. 

 

It is also the Coalition’s position that funds from Natural Resources Damages settlements should continue to be reinvested in the same areas where the environmental damages occurred. These funds are not an appropriate way to pay for statewide preservation needs and would not generate enough reliable funding to address these needs.

 

A draft report by the state Department of Environmental Protection entitled the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan indicates at least 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect water quality, provide parks and other recreational opportunities, and support the economy. In addition, at least 400,000 acres of farmland must be protected to maintain a viable agriculture industry.

 

The report also highlights the importance of recreation and parks to the quality of life in New Jersey and to redevelopment initiatives, especially in urban areas. Green Acres has more than 1,100 park development projects in every county of the state.

 

The report acknowledges that a long-term, stable funding source will be required to meet New Jersey’s current and future conservation and recreation needs, especially as New Jersey’s population continues to grow and the public demands for parks and open space increase.

 

“As this process moves forward, NJ Keep It Green is optimistic an agreement will be reached that will allow voters to have their say this year,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “We will continue to work with Senate and Assembly leaders to secure sustainable funding for vital land, water and historic preservation efforts, while also ensuring funding to address other important environmental and park needs, including stewardship of lands and parks that are already protected.”

 

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March 14, 2014

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN PRAISES SUSSEX COUNTY FREEHOLDERS FOR SUPPORTING LONG-TERM PRESERVATION FUNDING

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today praised the Sussex County Freeholders for adopting a resolution that supports establishing sustainable funding for the preservation and stewardship of open space, parks, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey.

 

Passage of the resolution brings the number of counties that have adopted resolutions in support of dedicated open space funding to 18 – nearly all of the 21 counties in the state.

 

“NJ Keep It Green thanks the Sussex County freeholders for understanding that protecting New Jersey’s open space, farmland and historic sites is of critical importance,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman.  “With elected leaders in nearly all of the counties in the state supporting sustainable funding for New Jersey’s preservation programs, the Senate and the Assembly must find a way to establish long-term funding for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation.”

 

The following are just a few example of how preservation funding has benefited Sussex County:

  • Nearly 600 land acquisition and park development projects have been supported through the Green Acres program, helping to preserve more than 55,000 acres of open space.
  • State funds enabled Sussex County to purchase 350 acres of land in Stillwater Township that linked Swartswood State Park with Trout Brook Wildlife Management Area.  Today, the protected open space includes 4,340 acres that provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, including the bobcat and black bear.
  • More than 130 farms, or nearly 15,000 acres, were preserved with funds set aside for farmland preservation.

“Preserved land, water and historic sites have provided numerous quality of life and economic benefits to residents in Sussex County and all of New Jersey,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green.  “This resolution in favor of long-term support for preservation programs should remind legislators that they have a responsibility to maintain New Jersey’s legacy of preservation by ensuring that Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation continue today and in the future.” 

 

A draft report by the state Department of Environmental Protection entitled the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan indicates at least 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect water quality, provide parks and other recreational opportunities, and support the economy. In addition, at least 400,000 acres of farmland must be protected to maintain a viable agriculture industry.

 

The report also highlights the importance of recreation and parks to the quality of life in New Jersey and to redevelopment initiatives, especially in urban areas. Green Acres has provided funding for parks and recreation development for decades, and has awarded nearly $120 million to local governments and conservation organizations between 2008 and 2012.

 

The report acknowledges that a long-term, stable funding source will be required to meet New Jersey’s current and future conservation and recreation needs and indicates that:  “Despite having one of the strongest state open space and recreation funding programs in the nation, New Jersey has demonstrated a consistent funding shortfall in meeting its public conservation and recreation needs.”

 

With funds from the 2009 bond issue fully allocated, there is no new money in the pipeline for New Jersey’s Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation programs.

 

In addition to Sussex County, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren counties have all passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. 

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January 27, 2014

 

LONG-TERM OPEN SPACE FUNDING BILL MOVES FORWARD IN NEW LEGISLATIVE SESSION

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation advocates, today thanked the Senate Energy and Environment Committee for making long-term open space funding a priority in the new legislative session.

 

The Coalition praised Sens. Bob Smith and Christopher “Kip” Bateman for their bipartisan sponsorship of SCR-2, which would ask voters to dedicate a small percentage of sales tax revenues for open space, farmland and historic preservation efforts. The Senate passed a nearly identical bill in the legislative session that ended earlier this month, but the Assembly failed to vote on the measure.

 

The Senate Energy and Environment Committee today supported the legislation with a 4-1 vote. 

 

“Today’s action shows that the Senate remains fully committed to establishing a sustainable source of funding for open space, farmland, parks and historic preservation programs statewide and recognizes that a stopgap measure is not the answer,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert. “We urge the Assembly to work with the Senate on sustainable funding so that New Jersey can meet its critical preservation needs and protect its long-standing legacy of successful land, water and historic preservation efforts.”

 

A draft report by the state Department of Environmental Protection entitled the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan indicates at least 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect water quality, provide parks and other recreational opportunities, and support the economy. In addition, at least 400,000 acres of farmland must be protected to maintain a viable agriculture industry.

 

The report also highlights the importance of recreation and parks to the quality of life in New Jersey and to redevelopment initiatives, especially in urban areas. Green Acres has provided funding for parks and recreation development for decades, and has awarded nearly $120 million to local governments and conservation organizations between 2008 and 2012.

 

The report acknowledges that a long-term, stable funding source will be required to meet New Jersey’s current and future conservation and recreation needs and indicates that:  “Despite having one of the strongest state open space and recreation funding programs in the nation, New Jersey has demonstrated a consistent funding shortfall in meeting its public conservation and recreation needs.”

 

With funds from the 2009 bond issue fully allocated, there is no new money in the pipeline for New Jersey’s Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation programs.

 

“Without a sustainable funding source in place, these programs and the economic and quality of life benefits they provide will be left to wither on the vine and die,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “New Jersey voters have long supported open space funding. It is time to let them decide.”

 

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January 13, 2014

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN: ASSEMBLY MISSES OPPORTUNITY FOR LONG-TERM OPEN SPACE FUNDING

 

Coalition Calls Upon Lawmakers to Make Sustainable Funding a Priority in New Legislative Session

 

TRENTON, N.J. - NJ Keep It Green, the state's largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation advocates, today expressed disappointment in the Assembly's failure to act on legislation that would ask voters to dedicate a small percentage of sales tax revenues for open space, farmland and historic preservation efforts.

 

The Senate on Thursday passed the bill with overwhelming, bipartisan support by a 29-8 super-majority vote. The Assembly, however, failed to post the measure for a vote today, the last day of the current legislative session.

 

"We are disappointed that the Assembly missed this opportunity to put in place a fiscally responsible, sustainable funding source to protect our drinking water, preserve our farms, create more parks and safeguard our historic treasures," said NJ Keep It Green Chairman. "This is one of the few times since 1961 that New Jersey is without a source of funding for preservation programs despite the critical needs that have been identified across the state."

 

A recently released draft report by the state Department of Environmental Protection indicates at least 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect water quality, provide parks and other recreational opportunities, and support the economy. In addition, at least 400,000 acres of farmland must be protected to maintain a viable agriculture industry.

 

The report acknowledges that a long-term, stable funding source will be required to meet New Jersey's current and future conservation and recreation needs. 

 

"Despite the success of the New Jersey's preservation efforts, there continues to be a funding shortfall with more than 75 percent of Green Acres grant requests going unmet," said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator. "NJ Keep It Green is redoubling our efforts to work with the Governor and leaders in the Senate and Assembly to come up with a viable plan to ensure sustainable funding for land, water and historic preservation efforts in the new legislative session."

 

A full version of the draft 2013-2017 New Jersey Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan can be found at http://www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres/pdf/Public_Review_SCORP.pdf

 

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January 9, 2014

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN PRAISES SENATE FOR APPROVING OPEN SPACE FUNDING BILL BY SUPERMAJORITY

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation advocates, today praised the Senate for voting in favor of legislation (SCR165) that would ask voters to dedicate a small percentage of sales tax revenues for open space, farmland and historic preservation efforts.  The Senate approved the bill with overwhelming and bipartisan support by a supermajority vote of 29-8.

 

“We are grateful for the Senate’s continued leadership on this issue,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert.  “The leaders and members of the Senate have again demonstrated their commitment to establishing a long-term dedicated source of funding for critical land, water and historic preservation efforts.

 

“In light of the overwhelming Senate support, we hope the Assembly will reconsider its position and post the bill for a vote on Monday.” Gilbert added.

 

The legislation proposes to ask voters to support an annual sales tax dedication of either 2.4 percent or $200 million – whichever is less – for preservation programs including Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation.

 

The legislation provides safeguards to ensure that annual preservation funding is tied to actual revenues and will not exceed $200 million annually, the average amount that New Jersey has dedicated each year for more than a decade.

 

With sales tax revenues projected to grow by more than $400 million annually, preservation efforts would be funded using less than half of the growth in revenues. This would leave more than $200 million in new funds available each year to address other needs without taking away from any other programs.

 

“This is the right approach,” said Gilbert.  “Stop-gap funding efforts will not address the significant long-term preservation needs that have been identified, or create stability for a program that requires planning and sustained investment over time.”

 

The Senate vote followed the recent release of a draft report by the state Department of Environmental Protection that indicates at least 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect water quality, provide parks and other recreational opportunities, and support the economy.

 

The draft report titled “2013-2017 New Jersey Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan” indicates that between 2008 and 2012 the Green Acres Program received $1.6 billion in requests from local governments and non-profits for land acquisition and park development projects, and awarded $367 million (23% of requests).

 

“Despite having one of the strongest state open space and recreation funding programs in the nation, New Jersey has demonstrated a consistent funding shortfall in meeting its public conservation and recreation needs,” the draft report states.

 

The report also states: “The preservation of land for conservation, public and recreation purposes will require (a) long term stable funding source along with a concerted planning and acquisition effort.”

 

The report is prepared every five years by the DEP’s Green Acres Program to maintain the state’s eligibility to

receive funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service.

 

In addition to identifying more than 650,000 acres of high quality open space that needs to be preserved statewide, other key findings include:

  • More than 400,000 acres of farmland need to be preserved to reach the 600,000 acres recommended to sustain agriculture as a viable New Jersey industry. 
  • New Jersey remains the most densely populated state in the nation with a population in 2012 of 8,864,500, an increase of 450,240 since 2000. New Jersey has 1,025 people per square mile compared to a national density of 87 people per square mile.
  • As New Jersey’s population increases, the amount of open space required to satisfy recreational needs and to perform other vital functions, such as aquifer recharge for water supply purposes, will increase.
  • A total of 333,551 residential building permits were issued between 2000 and 2012, an average of about 26,000 a year.
  • The long-term dedication of funds for land preservation and recreation is a major factor in sustaining New Jersey’s nearly $40 million tourism industry.
  • Land preservation can provide protection from future storms like Hurricane Sandy. The Blue Acres program can acquire flood prone homes and create open space for storm mitigation.  Nearly 184,000 acres of federal, state and local public open space was inundated from the Hurricane Sandy storm surge.
  • There are a total of 4,968,980 acres of land in New Jersey according to DEP 2007 land use data. There are a total of 1,529,097 acres of preserved open space and farmland, comprising 30 percent of New Jersey. Another 1,593,853 acres or 32 percent, consisted of developed lands according to DEP 2012 land use analysis. This leaves 1,846,030 acres available for future land preservation and development.                                                                                                                   

“The health of our communities and economy depend on investments in preserving open space, water supplies, farmland and historic sites over the long term,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator.  “This legislation provides a fiscally responsible and viable way of doing that.”

 

A full version of the draft 2013-2017 New Jersey Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan can be found at http://www.nj.gov/dep/greenacres/pdf/Public_Review_SCORP.pdf

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December 19, 2013

 

LET VOTERS DECIDE ON LONG-TERM SOLUTION FOR OPEN SPACE FUNDING

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation advocates, today voiced strong support for legislation (SCR165) that would ask voters to dedicate a small percentage of sales tax revenues for open space, farmland and historic preservation efforts.

 

“This is the right approach,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert. “The Senate has shown great leadership by putting forth a fiscally responsible, viable plan and voters should now have an opportunity to have their say.”

 

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee today held a public hearing on the bill, which was approved by the committee last week with unanimous bipartisan support. The bill’s primary sponsors are Sen. Bob Smith and Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman.

 

The legislation proposes to ask voters to support an annual sales tax dedication of either 2.4 percent or $200 million – whichever is less – for preservation programs including Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation.

 

The legislation provides safeguards to ensure that annual preservation funding is tied to actual revenues and will not exceed $200 million annually, the average amount that New Jersey has dedicated each year for more than a decade.

 

With sales tax revenues projected to grow by more than $400 million annually, preservation efforts would be funded using less than half of the growth in revenues. This would leave more than $200 million in new funds available each year to address other needs without taking away from any other programs.

 

"This legislation is very similar to the Garden State Preservation Trust, New Jersey's most successful preservation initiative to date, which also dedicated sales-tax revenues on a long-term basis,” said former Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden, past chairwoman of the Garden State Preservation Trust. “New Jersey needs to put a sustainable source of funding in place again if we are to address the critical need for investments to protect open space, water supplies, farmland and historic sites that are essential to the health of our economy and our communities."

 

NJ Keep It Green also expressed disappointment in the legislation passed today by the Assembly (A4541) proposing a $200 million short-term bond measure that fails to address the need for a long-term, stable solution to open space funding.

 

“A stop-gap measure fails to address long-term needs and continues to delay action on a sustainable source of funding,” said Gilbert. “NJ Keep It Green will continue to work with the Legislature and the Governor to seek agreement on a sustainable source of funding that can move forward with bipartisan support.”

 

New Jersey has approximately 1 million acres (20 percent of the state) that are still unprotected and developable and is likely to reach build-out by the middle of this century. There continues to be a backlog of applications for Green Acres, Blue Acres and Historic Preservation funding. More than 80 percent of Green Acres grant requests and 60 percent of Historic Preservation grant requests are unfunded and more than 350,000 acres of farmland throughout the state need to preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry in New Jersey.

 

An NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey of 600 registered likely voters found that 74 percent support dedicating $200 million annually in state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

 

Since the start of the year 17 counties – Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – have all passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding, as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

 

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 December 12, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN THANKS SENATE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE FOR ADVANCING FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE, LONG-TERM OPEN SPACE FUNDING

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation advocates, today thanked the members of the Senate Environment and Energy committee for advancing legislation (SCR165) that provides a fiscally responsible solution to long-term preservation funding.

 

The committee voted unanimously and with bipartisan support in favor of a bill with prime sponsors Sen. Bob Smith and Sen. Kip Bateman that proposes to ask voters to support an annual sales tax dedication of either 2.4 percent or $200 million – whichever is less – for preservation programs including Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation.

 

The legislation provides safeguards to ensure that annual preservation funding is tied to actual revenues and will not exceed $200 million annually, the average amount that New Jersey has dedicated each year for more than a decade.

 

“This proposal is a fiscally responsible, pay-as-you-go approach that does not increase debt or taxes as other proposals will,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert.  “It is a smart solution that will protect our drinking water and natural flood buffers, preserve our green open spaces and family farms, and safeguard our historic treasures today and tomorrow.”

 

Also today, NJ Keep It Green expressed disappointment that the Assembly Budget Committee approved a stop-gap $200 million bond measure, saying that it simply delays addressing the need for long-term open space funding for another year.

 

“The NJ Keep It Green Coalition strongly urges the Assembly to reject a stopgap approach that provides no long-term, stable source of funding for open space preservation,” said NJ Keep It Green Coordinator Kelly Mooij.  “With a backlog of projects across the state that need financial support, failure to pass long-term funding puts at risk hundreds of thousands of acres that keep our drinking water clean, help protect against flooding, provide locally grown farm-fresh food, and support our local and regional economies.

 

“We are hopeful that the Assembly will work with the Senate to ensure sustainable funding for critical land, water and historic preservation efforts by passing SCR165 with bipartisan support before this legislative session ends so voters get a chance to have their say,” Mooij added.

 

Surveys show overwhelming voter support for dedicating sales tax revenues for land, water and historic preservation efforts.

 

New Jersey has approximately 1 million acres (20 percent of the state) that are still unprotected and developable and is likely to reach build-out by the middle of this century. There continues to be a backlog of applications for Green Acres and Historic Preservation funding. More than 80 percent of Green Acres grant requests and 60 percent of Historic Preservation grant requests are unfunded and more than 350,000 acres of farmland throughout the state need to preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry in New Jersey.

 

According to the Office of Legislative Services, sales-tax revenues are up 9.4 percent year-to-date and are projected to grow by 5.4 percent this fiscal year. The projected year-end estimate is a total of $8.68 billion, an increase of $45 million. If these trends continue, preservation programs would be funded by less than half of the growth in sales tax revenues, meaning that the funds would not be taken away from other programs, and leaving more than $200 million new revenues available to address other needs.

 

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September 12, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN PRAISES BURLINGTON COUNTY FREEHOLDERS’ SUPPORT FOR STATE PRESERVATION FUNDING

 

Burlington 17th County to Pass Resolution Supporting Sustainable Funding

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today praised the Burlington County Freeholders for adopting a resolution that supports establishing sustainable state funding for the preservation and stewardship of open space, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey.  

 

The passage of the resolution brings the number of counties that have adopted resolutions in support of dedicated open space funding to 17 – well over half of the 21 counties in the state.

 

“With the vast majority of the counties in the state supporting sustainable funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation, it sends a clear message to the Legislature that local communities value the benefits that investments in these programs bring,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “NJ Keep It Green urges the Assembly to take heed and pass legislation this year to create a dedicated source of long-term funding to keep our drinking water clean, preserve our family farms and historic treasures, provide community parks, and protect natural flood buffers.” 

 

The Burlington County Freeholders on Wednesday adopted a resolution in support of sustainable funding for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation.

 

The following are just a few examples of how preservation funding has benefited Burlington County:

 

  • More than 400 land acquisition and park development projects have been supported through the Green Acres program, helping to preserve more than 64,350 acres of open space.
  • More than 200 farms totaling more than 25,000 acres were preserved with funds set aside for farmland preservation.  
  • Green Acres funding enabled the expansion of the Rancocas Conservancy’s Wurst Preserve in Medford and Evesham townships from 15 acres to 140 acres.  The preserve features a trail that takes visitors through the Pine Barrens savannahs, hardwood swamps, and a pond that is a popular picnic area.

“Agriculture is key to our economy and to our way of life here in Burlington County, and the state has always been an important partner in ensuring we can preserve our farms and our farming legacy for future generations,” said Burlington County Freeholder Director Joseph Donnelly. “We are dedicated to preserving farmland and open space and we will continue to work with the state and the federal government to secure the funding to meet our goal of 70,000 preserved acres.”

 

Jaclyn Rhoads, director of conservation policy for the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, applauded the Freeholders’ action.

 

“We commend the freeholders for recognizing the critical importance of sustained preservation funding,” said Rhoads. “There are more than 60,000 acres in the Pinelands that still need to be preserved so we can continue to protect our drinking water for the one million New Jersey residents who rely on it every day.”

 

The state Senate, including Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) voted twice this summer in favor of legislation that proposes a voter referendum to dedicate $200 million in sales tax revenues annually, less than one percent of the state budget, to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs. 

 

The Assembly has not yet acted, but must approve the bill this year so that the Legislature can refer it to the November 2014 ballot.

 

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The Act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues, which combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.  

 

New Jersey voters have long been supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation, passing 13 out of 13 ballot measures since 1961. Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding. 

 

A recent NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey of 600 registered likely voters found that 74 percent of voters support dedicating $200 million annually in state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

 

In addition to Burlington County, Bergen, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren counties have all passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

 

“On behalf of the Rancocas Conservancy, we are happy to see this resolution passed by Burlington County and added to the list of counties that have passed resolutions in support of funding this past year,” said Barbara Rich of the Rancocas Conservancy.

 

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August 16, 2013

 

Let voters decide on $200M for open space: Opinion

By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist, Maureen Ogden

This summer, the New Jersey Senate twice voted on and approved legislation that would ask voters to support a sustainable source of funding for open space, water supply and flood plain protection, farmland and historic preservation efforts across the state.

Now it is the Assembly’s turn to act.

The legislation proposes a voter referendum to dedicate $200 million in sales tax revenues to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs. Since all the funds from the last bond issue have been fully allocated, it will be the end of preservation in New Jersey unless the Legislature acts now.

Funding for preservation projects has long been a bipartisan issue in New Jersey, something voters and elected leaders from both sides of the aisle supported.

That’s because land, water and historic preservation efforts are a wise investment in our future. We are fortunate to live in a state where we have access to fresh, locally grown food, white sand beaches, vibrant forests and numerous waterways, parks, trails and historic sites. These resources enhance the quality of life in New Jersey and provide economic benefits by creating jobs and stimulating tourism.

Yet the need to establish long-term funding for preservation is greater than ever. Approximately 20 percent of our state, or 1 million acres, still remains unprotected and developable. Preserving open space, inland waterways and natural buffers along the coast can help prevent future flood and storm damage.

Although agriculture is New Jersey’s third-largest industry, with the state’s more than 10,000 farms generating at least $1 billion annually, an additional 350,000 acres of farmland must be preserved to maintain a viable agricultural industry.

A recent study by the Trust for Public Land found that every $1 invested in state land preservation returns $10 in economic value to the state through natural flood control and water filtration, which would otherwise have to be paid for by taxpayers.

Recently, Newark residents and elected officials celebrated the completion of Riverfront Park, which will give neighbors long-desired access to the Passaic River and a beautiful place to gather and play. State dollars, including $2.6 million from the Green Acres program, covered more than half of the park’s price tag and leveraged millions of additional public and private dollars.

A lack of action by the Assembly will put projects like this at risk of becoming a thing of the past. Further delay and uncertainty on this issue is sure to impact a number of ongoing preservation efforts throughout the state.

New Jersey’s legacy of preservation is due in large part to voters who have long been supportive of preservation programs, passing all 13 ballot measures put forth since 1961 in favor of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation.

That support remains strong today. A recent survey of 600 likely voters commissioned by New Jersey Keep It Green found that 69 percent of voters support dedicating $200 million annually from state sales tax revenues to fund preservation programs, the same amount proposed in the bill currently being considered by the Assembly.

The legislation takes a fiscally responsible approach that doesn’t increase taxes or state debt. The $200 million dedication is the average the state has been investing in preservation since 1998 when voters approved the nationally recognized Garden State Preservation Trust.

If the Legislature votes in favor of the bill this year and next, the question will be placed on the November 2014 ballot, giving New Jersey voters the opportunity to support the funding.

Voters deserve the chance to have their say on this critical issue. It is my fervent hope that the Assembly acts this year to make that possible and give New Jersey voters the opportunity to vote “yes” to protect our land, water and history.

Maureen Ogden is a former assemblywoman and past chair of the Garden State Preservation Trust.

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August 5, 2013

 

Philly Inquirer Editorial: Garden State needs its space

 

t's a shame that New Jersey legislators won't let voters decide whether they would rather live near a stand of trees or a strip mall - and whether they want to keep getting stuck on flooded highways on the way home from the Shore, as thousands did a week ago. Thirty of the 40 state senators showed up in Trenton last week to vote on legislation to put an open-space funding question on the November ballot.

 

Supporters were two votes short of the number needed to pass the bill. All the Democrats present voted for the measure, which would ask voters to dedicate $200 million a year in sales-tax revenue to preserve open space, farmland, and historic sites. Joining the Democrats were Republicans Diane Allen of Burlington County and Christopher "Kip" Bateman of Somerset County, who had the guts to go against their caucus and Gov. Christie.

 

Open space is an urgent matter because geographers estimate that New Jersey could be entirely built out in a couple of decades. Without a preservation program, about a million more acres face development. That would mean a lost chance to protect drinking-water sources and create natural buffers along the state's shores and rivers, which mitigate flooding.

 

Moreover, about 350,000 acres of farmland must be protected "to maintain a viable agricultural industry," according to Tom Gilbert, chairman of the NJ Keep it Green campaign. Christie has promised to support open-space acquisition. But it's past time for him to share his secret plan with the rest us. Right now, Gov. Stronger-than-the-Storm looks to be trying to kill any hope for a logical land management program that could lessen the impact of future disasters like Sandy.

 

Instead of answering questions about whether he pressured nine Republicans to change their votes and oppose the bill, Christie childishly called the bill's sponsor, Sen. Bob Smith (D., Middlesex), "a joke." The silliness was bipartisan. After the bill failed, Democratic legislative leaders played the blame game. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said he could have gotten the two more votes needed if the Assembly had guaranteed approval of the bill. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D., Essex) shot back by reminding Sweeney that the bill fell apart in the Senate. The whole round of woulda-coulda-shoulda was embarrassing for everyone involved.
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July 30, 2013

 

Daily Record Editorial:  Another legislative fail, Trenton style

 

New Jersey’s legislators, and its governor, are really a sorry lot.

We’re reminded of that too often, of course, but rarely as overtly and shamefully as occurred on Monday. That’s when the Senate failed to deliver the super-majority vote needed to place a question on November’s ballot asking voters to consider a proposal to devote a small slice of annual sales tax revenue to a dedicated fund for open-space preservation.

It’s not the vote itself that was so appalling, although voters certainly deserved the chance to decide on the plan, which would raise up to $200 million a year for the cause. We also believe the proposal is a worthy approach to assuring the state continues to have the resources necessary to save its dwindling green spaces.

What is truly insulting, however, are the reasons behind the failure. For instance, many senators couldn’t be bothered to adjust schedule and vacation plans to be available for the vote. Senate President Steve Sweeney adopted an unusual day-long voting procedure, but just 30 members of the 40-member body cast votes, yielding only simple majority support, 22-8.

If you sign up to be a legislator, certain responsibilities come with the job, and central among them is to vote on issues affecting your communities. Open-space preservation has been highly popular among New Jersey voters for years, with funding proposals nearly always approved. What was clear in this case is the too many lawmakers either didn’t care enough, or wanted to help scuttle the plan without taking a public stand.

Exasperating too was the supposed change of heart by some Republicans who had previously supported the measure, but were told by Gov. Christie this time around to back off. And, like good little subservient soldiers, they bowed to Christie’s wishes. The Christie camp wasn’t talking, although the word is that the governor doesn’t want to lose that revenue for other budget needs. Some open-space advocates even worry that Christie would make up for the loss by slashing funding for other environmental programs. Their caution is well-founded; after all, Christie certainly isn’t going to hit up the wealthy for anything more by, for instance, raising taxes a bit on income exceeding a million dollars.

Christie’s hypocrisy in this case is blatant and undeniable. Keep in mind that the governor is more than willing to let the people decide on whether to legalize gay marriage, because the people know best what they want. Well apparently those same people don’t deserve a similar say on how to spend a tiny chunk of the state’s budget, because Christie thinks he knows best.

And on and on the legislative dance goes, with our leaders doing whatever it takes to control any outcome to their benefit. There’s nothing new to see here, but that doesn’t make the view any less disheartening.

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July 29, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN DISAPPOINTED VOTERS WILL NOT HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO DECIDE

THIS NOVEMBER ON OPEN SPACE FUNDING

 

Coalition Thanks Senate Leadership, Calls Upon Assembly to Bring Bill to Vote

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today thanked the Senate for its continued leadership on open space funding and for its approval of landmark legislation that provides a sustainable source of funding for preservation projects by a 22 to 8 vote. The Coalition expressed disappointment that the legislation did not receive the three-fifths super majority needed to refer the measure to the ballot this November.

 

NJ Keep It Green now urges the Assembly to vote on the bill this year so that the Legislature can pass it two years in a row by simple majority to refer it to the November 2014 ballot. 

 

“The Senate has now acted on this twice, and it is the Assembly’s turn to show some leadership on this important issue,” said Tom Glibert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “The Assembly should consider this legislation this summer so that there is a chance for the members to demonstrate their support for these critical preservation programs and allow for the opportunity to pass the bill by simple majority in two successive years.

 

“We thank Senate President Sweeney and Senators Smith and Bateman for their continued leadership and are deeply appreciative of those who voted in favor of the bill,” Gilbert continued. “We are extremely disappointed in the many Republican Senators – with the exception of Senators Bateman and Allen who deserve great credit for their leadership – who supported the bill originally and flipped their votes today. This has never been a partisan issue, and it should not become one now.”

 

The legislation would ask voters to dedicate a flat $200 million annually in sales-tax revenues for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation. The dedication represents the average annual investment the state has been making in preservation efforts since 1998 and is 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.

 

“With funds from the 2009 bond referendum for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation fully allocated, there is no new money in the pipeline to continue vital land, water and historic preservation efforts,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green.  “Thousands of acres are at risk of being lost to development and the critical projects already underway throughout the state may not come to completion without timely and continued funding.”

 

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.

 

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.  Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding. A NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent of voters support dedicating one-fifth of one cent of state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

 

Similar legislation received a super-majority vote when it went before the Senate earlier this summer. 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.

 

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July 26, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN APPLAUDS SENATE FOR CONTINUED LEADERSHIP ON OPEN SPACE FUNDING BILL

 

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.

 

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July 18, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN URGES LEGISLATURE TO LET VOTERS DECIDE ON OPEN SPACE FUNDING

 

Coalition Asks Senate and Assembly Leadership to Move Revised Legislation Forward

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, a statewide coalition of more than 180 park, agricultural, historic preservation and conservation organizations, today urged the New Jersey Legislature to let voters decide on creating a sustainable source of funding for critical open space, water supply and flood-plain protection, farmland and historic preservation programs across the state.

 

Members of the coalition appeared before the Senate Energy and Environment Committee today to voice their support for landmark legislation (SCR160/ACR205) that 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 public hearing clears the way for a vote in the full Senate and Assembly.  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 thanks Senate leadership and members of the Senate Energy and Environment committee for advancing this legislation and for recognizing the importance of creating a stable source of funding to continue efforts to conserve our open space and farmland, keep our drinking water clean, and preserve our heritage,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert. “If our elected leaders fail to pass this measure, New Jersey is at risk of losing hundreds of 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 bipartisan 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.

 

“NJ Keep It Green urges Senate and Assembly Leadership to move this bill forward as quickly as possible and give voters the opportunity to support vital land, water and historic preservation efforts that will keep New Jersey’s economy strong and continue the state’s proud preservation legacy,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator.  “Without a sustainable approach to preservation 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.”

 

The proposed legislation – which would not take effect until fiscal year 2015 – is a fiscally responsible approach that does not increase taxes or state debt. The $200 million dedication represents less than two-thirds of a 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 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 15 counties - 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.

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July 18, 2013

 

N.J. lawmakers may ask voters to spend $200M per year on open space

 

Ryan Hutchins/The Star-Ledger 

TRENTON

A measure that would ask voters to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars in state  funds  each year for open space preservation is set to move forward in the state Legislature, weeks after an earlier version stalled in the Assembly because of concerns about its price tag.

The resolution (SCR160) will be considered today in the state Senate environment committee, which will hold a public hearing once members vote on it.  Lawmakers are in a race against time: To place the question on the ballot in November, both houses must pass the resolution by a three-fifths majority — 48 out of 80 in the Assembly, 24 out of 40 in the Senate — by Aug. 4.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) is working to find a day to call back lawmakers for a full vote, Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), chairman of the environmental committee, said yesterday. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) would need to do the same.

“We’re hoping to get the speaker to have a session… and hopefully we can get this on this year’s ballot,” Smith said.

Oliver would not commit Wednesday night to holding a vote before the deadline, simply saying ""we'll see what the Senate does tomorrow."

The new resolution (SCR160/ACR205) would ask voters if they want to change the state constitution to guarantee $200 million per year in sales tax revenue is used for preserving open space, farms and historic sites. The diversions would last for 30 years, adding up to about $6 billion.

An earlier version passed the full Senate, 36-2, in June, but faced opposition in the Assembly after it was rushed to the floor on the last day before the summer recess. Democratic leadership pulled the resolution after a closed-door meeting.

That referendum would have asked voters to dedicate about 1/35th of the state's sales tax revenue for open space. While it would have started at around $200 million per year, the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services said that would rise as the state took in more sales tax revenue, estimating it may cost $17 billion over three decades.

Even as amended, the loss of sales tax revenue would need to be made up elsewhere in the budget. Critics — including two of the state's most vocal environmental groups, the Sierra Club and the New Jersey Environmental Federation — have said a constitutionally dedicated funding mechanism for open space would come at the expense of other important programs.

Historically, the state has sold bonds to raise money for preserving open space, farms and historic sites. Voters approved such borrowing more than a dozen times, as recently as 2009. But the $400 million the state raised with that sale has been allocated.

Star-Ledger staff writer Matt Friedman contributed to this report.

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June 28, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR REVISED APPROACH TO LAND, WATER AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION FUNDING BILL

 

Coalition Urges Legislature to Continue Bipartisan Legacy of Support for Open Space

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, a coalition of over 180 organizations, today expressed support for a revised approach to landmark legislation (SCR160/ACR205) that provides a sustainable source of funding for open space, water supply and flood-plain protection, farmland and historic preservation projects, and urged the Legislature to advance the bill.The Senate already passed very similar legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support (by a vote of 36 to 2).

 

The Coalition is calling upon the Legislature to approve the legislation by the end of July, which would ask voters in November 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 revised legislation addresses concerns that were raised about the scale and the cost of the measure.

 

“NJ Keep it Green urges legislators to vote in favor of this bipartisan bill, which has the full support of the Coalition, because it provides a stable source of funding to continue vital open space, water supply and flood-plain protection, farmland and historic preservation efforts over the next three decades,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert.  “If this legislation does not pass, decades of successful preservation efforts will grind to a halt, threatening important land and water protection and park and historic preservation projects, many of which are already underway.”

 

The legislation proposes a constitutional amendment – to be approved by voter referendum – to dedicate $200 million annually of sales tax revenue for preservation and stewardship of open space, farmland, waterways and historic sites.

 

The proposed legislation is a fiscally responsible approach that won’t increase taxes or state debt. The dedication would not begin until FY2015, so there would be no impact on next year’s budget.  $200 million represents less than 2/3 of a percent of the state budget, and is the average annual amount the state has been investing in preservation programs since 1998.  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.    

 

“NJ Keep It Green thanks Senators Smith and Bateman, Assemblywomen Spencer and Watson Coleman and Assemblymen McKeon, Greenwald, Mainor, Conaway and O’Donnell for sponsoring this legislation,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator.  “We urge the Legislature to pass the bill with the same bipartisan support demonstrated by the recent Senate vote, and give voters the opportunity to support vital land, water and historic preservation efforts that will keep New Jersey’s economy strong and maintain important quality of life benefits.”

 

Approximately 20 percent of the state, or one million acres, still remain unprotected and developable.    Yet there is a significant need to preserve 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. Additionally, 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.  Moreover, 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 15 counties - Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – have all passed resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

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June 24, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT IN LACK OF ASSEMBLY VOTE ON OPEN SPACE BILL

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today expressed disappointment that the New Jersey State Assembly did not vote on landmark legislation (SCR138) that provides a sustainable source of funding for preservation projects, and urged the Assembly to take up the bill during Thursday’s session.

 

The Coalition called upon the Assembly to approve the legislation, which would ask voters in November 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 legislation passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate, providing the three-fifths super majority needed to refer the measure to the ballot this November if the Assembly follows suit.

 

“NJ Keep it Green urges the Assembly to vote in favor of this bipartisan bill, which supports the preservation and stewardship of open space, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites through the state, especially after the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert.  “Although New Jersey has long been a leader among states in supporting land and water conservation, there is no sustainable source of funding for these programs moving forward, putting years of preservation efforts at risk of being derailed.”

 

The legislation proposes a constitutional amendment – to be approved by voter referendum – to dedicate one-fifth of one cent of the state’s 7-cent sales tax for open space, farmland and historic preservation annually for 30 years.  Based on fiscal year 2012 revenues, this would generate more than $200 million a year.

 

The legislation takes a fiscally responsible approach by dedicating existing sales tax revenues without increasing taxes or state debt.  According to the Office of Legislative Services, sales tax revenues are projected to grow by 4.7 percent annually, or more than $400 million each year.  Approximately $250 million would be dedicated to preservation efforts beginning in FY2015, meaning there would be no impact on next year’s budget, and the funds would come from the projected growth in sales tax revenues.  If revenues fall short, the amount would be reduced since the dedication is a percentage of revenues. 

 

“With funds from the 2009 bond referendum for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation fully allocated, there is no new money in the pipeline to continue vital land, water and historic preservation efforts,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green.  “Hundreds of thousands of acres are at risk of being lost to development and the critical projects already underway throughout the state may not come to completion without timely and continued funding.”

 

Approximately 20 percent of the state, or one million acres, still remain unprotected and developable. Yet there is a significant need to preserve open space and natural buffers along the coast and in-land waterways that may 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.

 

Agriculture is the state's third largest industry, with the state's more than 10,000 farms generating at least a billion dollars annually. Further, 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.  Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding. A NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent of voters support dedicating one-fifth of one cent of state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

 

Since the start of the year 15 counties - Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – have all passed resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

 

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JUNE 20, 2013

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN APPLAUDS SENATE FOR APPROVING LAND, WATER AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION FUNDING BILL

 

Coalition Calls Upon Assembly to Bring Bipartisan Bill to Vote

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today applauded the New Jersey State Senate for voting in favor of landmark legislation (SCR138) that provides a sustainable source of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation efforts and called upon Assembly leadership to bring the bipartisan bill to a vote.  The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (by a vote of 36 to 2), providing the three-fifths super majority needed to refer the measure to the ballot this November if the Assembly follows suit.

 

The legislation dedicates a small percentage of state sales-tax revenues to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs. 

 

“Today the Legislature showed bipartisan support for the preservation and stewardship of open space, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey,” said NJ Keep It Green Chairman Tom Gilbert.  “Although New Jersey has long been a leader among states in supporting land and water conservation, there is no sustainable source of funding for these programs moving forward, putting decades of successful preservation efforts at risk of being derailed.

 

“Today’s vote is a step in the right direction in terms of establishing long-term support for preservation projects statewide,” Gilbert continued. “Now it’s up to the Assembly to take action before the Legislature recesses at the end of June.  This legislation deserves a vote in the Assembly.”  

 

The legislation proposes a constitutional amendment – to be approved by voter referendum in November – to dedicate one-fifth of one cent of the state’s 7-cent sales tax for open space, farmland and historic preservation annually for 30 years.  Based on fiscal year 2012 revenues, this would generate more than $200 million a year.

 

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the successful Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The Act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues, which combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.   

 

“Senate leaders were right to give voters another chance to show their commitment to preserving open space, waterways, farmland and historic sites, which provide billions of dollars in economic benefits, protect against damage from storms and provide important quality of life benefits,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator.  “We urge the Assembly to act quickly to show support for this landmark legislation and give New Jersey voters the opportunity to consider investments in protecting open space, farmland, waterways and historic sites.”

 

New Jersey's economic success hinges on its investment in preservation programs, which support key industries such as tourism, outdoor recreation and agriculture. A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association found that in New Jersey outdoor recreation alone generates $17.8 billion in consumer spending, $6.1 billion in wages and salaries, $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue and 158,000 direct jobs each year.  

 

Agriculture is the state's third largest industry, with the state's more than 10,000 farms generating at least a billion dollars annually. Further, 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.  Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding. A NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent of voters support dedicating one-fifth of one cent of state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

 

Since the start of the year 15 counties - Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – have all passed resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

 

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JUNE 1, 2013

Jersey needs funding plan for open space

 

By Tom Gilbert and Kelly Mooij

 

In the Philadelphia Inquirer

 

For more than half a century, New Jersey voters have repeatedly demonstrated overwhelming support for open space, farmland, and historic preservation funding, passing 13 out of 13 ballot measures since 1961.

 

Moreover, recent surveys indicate that support remains strong today.

 

A survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent support dedicating one-fifth of 1 cent of state sales-tax revenues to fund open space and preservation programs.

 

The results make it clear that New Jersey voters are willing to invest in keeping our drinking water clean, protecting flood-prone lands, open space, and wildlife habitat, and preserving our family farms and historic treasures.

 

With no new money for preservation programs currently available, voters should once again be given the opportunity to decide whether the state should continue these investments.

 

Recently, the state Senate's Environment and Energy Committee passed landmark bipartisan legislation - SCR 138, sponsored by Sens. Robert Smith (D., Middlesex), Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R., Somerset), and Jim Whelan (D., Atlantic) - that would do just that.

 

The legislation, to be approved by voters in November, proposes to dedicate one-fifth of 1 cent of the state's 7-cent sales tax for preserving open space, farmland, and historic areas annually for 30 years.

 

Based on revenues from fiscal year 2012, this plan would generate more than $200 million a year, which is the average amount that New Jersey has invested in preservation programs each year since the establishment of the Garden State Preservation Trust in 1998.

 

As the bill makes its way through the Legislature, it is important to note that sales-tax revenues grew by an average of $206 million annually over the past two fiscal years, and are projected to grow by more than $200 million annually moving forward.

 

Additionally, as of July, Amazon.com sales in New Jersey will be taxable. This should further improve the outlook for sales-tax revenues, which are up 3.1 percent this year.

 

Also, the dedication is not scheduled to begin until 2015, and would not impact the budget this year or next, allowing time for revenues to continue to grow.

 

Given that the dedication is based on a percentage of sales-tax revenues and not a flat amount, if revenues fall, funding for open-space programs would be reduced accordingly. These safeguards are built into the legislation to ensure that dedicating funds does not come at the expense of other important needs.

 

Dedicated funding for open space, farmland, and historic preservation is a wise and necessary investment that New Jersey must make now, before it is too late.

 

Without dedicated funding, New Jersey - which is projected to be completely built out by the middle of the century - is at risk of having decades of successful preservation efforts grind to a halt, jeopardizing critical lands that protect our water supply, guard against flood and storm damage, and support industries such as agriculture, tourism, and outdoor recreation that generate billions of dollars. One study found that every dollar invested in state preservation programs returns $10 in economic value to the state.

 

Sustainable funding is essential to continuing the state, local, and private partnerships that make preservation projects possible. That is why 14 counties - including Camden and Gloucester in South Jersey - as well as the New Jersey Highlands Council, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, and nearly 50 municipal governments have passed resolutions calling for long-term funding.

 

New Jersey's Keep It Green coalition strongly supports this plan to dedicate a small percentage of sales-tax revenues for open space, farmland, and historic preservation.

 

The coalition looks forward to working with Gov. Christie and legislative leaders to advance the funding legislation. Give voters the chance to vote "yes" to ensure that New Jersey's proud legacy of preservation continues.

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MAY 31, 2013

 

Open Space Funding / A Careful Proposal

By The Atlantic City Press

 

The Legislature appears to moving toward a consensus on a new funding mechanism for open-space preservation - or at least a consensus that a measure should be put before the voters in November.

Open-space preservation - through Green Acres, Blue Acres and the farmland- and historic-preservation programs - has historically been funded through borrowing approved by voters. New Jersey residents have approved 13 bond referendums for open-space preservation since 1961, never once rejecting the borrowing. But all $400 million from the last bond referendum in 2009 has been allocated.

The coffers are empty. If New Jersey is going to continue to have a thriving open-space preservation program - probably the most effective use of environmental-protection dollars - something must be done. More borrowing is off the table, as it should be considering the state's existing debt load. But the latest proposal has been carefully crafted to reflect the state's shaky finances, and it is certainly something that at least should be put before the voters.

Originally, the plan was to seek a constitutional amendment dedicating $200 million a year in sales-tax revenue to the open-space programs. We hesitated to support that. Every dollar of sales-tax revenue used for open space means fewer dollars for other necessary programs.

But instead, the latest measure would seek voters' approval to dedicate one-fifth of every cent of sales-tax revenue, instead of a flat $200 million a year. That way, if sales-tax revenues decline, open-space funding will be reduced. Seems fair and sensible. (The NJ Keep It Green group, a proponent of the measure, notes that sales-tax revenue grew an average of $206 million a year over the last two years, two pretty bad years for the economy.)

Furthermore, the new funding mechanism would not kick in until fiscal year 2015, ensuring that the plan has no impact on the budget this year or next year. This is an especially smart way to handle what is bound to be a controversial proposal. It provides some built-in breathing room. (Plus, this year, Gov. Chris Christie already has said he plans to spend $300 million in federal Hurricane Sandy aid to buy up flood-prone properties.)

But one change we'd like to see: Require that the money be spent solely on land acquisition. Don't use it to light ball fields, build gazebos or pave bike paths. Those are fine projects. But voters will be more likely to support a program dedicated to the main purpose here - protecting open space from development, pollution and flooding.

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MAY 29, 2013 

 

NJ KEEP IT GREEN PRAISES CAPE MAY COUNTY FREEHOLDERS’ SUPPORT FOR STATE PRESERVATION FUNDING

 

Cape May 15th County to Pass Resolution Supporting Sustainable Funding

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today praised the Cape May County Freeholders for adopting a resolution that supports establishing sustainable state funding for the preservation and stewardship of open space, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey.  

 

The passage of the resolution brings the number of counties that have adopted resolutions in support of dedicated open space funding to 15 – more than half of the 21 counties in the state.

 

“The passage of this resolution by the Cape May County Freeholders demonstrates that support for a dedicated source of open space funding continues to grow across the state,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “With no new money available, New Jersey is at risk of having decades of successful preservation efforts grind to a halt, jeopardizing critical lands that protect our water supply, guard against flood and storm damage, and generate billions of dollars in economic benefits. We must act now before it is too late.”

 

The Cape May County Freeholders on Tuesday adopted a resolution in support of sustainable funding for Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation.

 

The following are just a few examples of how preservation funding has benefited Cape May County:

  • More than 315 land acquisition and park development projects have been supported through the Green Acres program, helping to preserve nearly 44,000 acres of open space.
  • Green Acres funding helped acquire 164 acres known as the DeSoi Singer property in Lower Township. The property is located within the lower 10 kilometers of the Cape May Peninsula, which is a critical stopover for migratory birds.
  • Green Acres funds supported the acquisition of the former Ponderlodge Golf Course in Lower Township, which led to the creation of the 253-acre Cox Hall Creek Wildlife Management Area.
  • More than 2,600 acres were preserved with funds set aside for farmland preservation.

“ Cape May County has a long history of supporting investments in open space and farmland and in protecting our natural resources, which draw tens of thousands of visitors every year,” said Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton. “Open space programs such as Green Acres and Blue Acres help protect New Jersey’s coastal communities from damaging storms and provide necessary funding to help us recover from events like Hurricane Sandy.”

 

Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, applauded the Freeholders’ action.

 

“The health and accessibility of our coast impacts the quality of life of all who live in and visit the state,” said Dillingham. “In order to protect our vulnerable coastal wetlands, estuaries, rivers, and bays, we need a sustainable source of dedicated funding for conservation and preservation programs this year.”

 

NJ Keep It Green supports legislation (SCR138/ACR179) sponsored by Sens. Bob Smith, Christopher “Kip” Bateman and Jim Whelan and Assemblywoman Grace Spencer that would ask voters to approve dedicating a small percentage of annual state sales tax revenues for 30 years to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs.

 

The percentage of sales tax revenues to be dedicated under the proposal is just one-fifth of one cent of the state’s 7-cent sales tax. This is expected to generate more than $200 million a year, which is less than 1 percent of the state budget.

 

The dedication would not begin until FY2015 to allow more time for sales-tax revenues to grow and accommodate this without impacting other needs.  Sales tax revenues have been growing and are projected to increase by more than $200 million annually going forward.

 

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The Act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues, which combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.  

 

New Jersey voters have long been supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation, passing 13 out of 13 ballot measures since 1961. Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding. 

 

An NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent of voters support dedicating one-fifth of one cent of state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

 

In addition to Cape May County, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren counties have all passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

 

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MAY 20, 2013

 

SENATE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE ADVANCES LANDMARK OPEN SPACE LEGISLATION

 

NJ Keep It Green Coalition Hails Growing Bipartisan Support

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today cheered the bipartisan passage by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee of landmark legislation (SR138) that provides a sustainable source of funding for preservation efforts.

The legislation dedicates 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 members of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee clearly recognize the critical need to act now to establish a dedicated source of funding to protect our land, water and historic sites,” said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep It Green. “This is a sign of the growing bipartisan support for this measure, and we look forward to working with the Governor and legislative leaders to ensure that New Jersey can continue its investments in keeping our drinking water clean, protecting our open space and wildlife habitat, and preserving our family farms and historic treasures.”

The legislation proposes a constitutional amendment – to be approved by voter referendum in November – to dedicate one-fifth of one cent of the state’s 7-cent sales tax for open space, farmland and historic preservation annually for 30 years.

Based on fiscal year 2012 revenues, this would generate more than $200 million a year, which represents the average annual state spending on preservation programs under the Garden State Preservation Trust.  The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex, Somerset), Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset) and Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic).

“NJ Keep It Green thanks Senators Smith, Bateman and Whelan for their bipartisan leadership on this important bill,” said Kelly Mooij, NJ Keep It Green coordinator. “With all of the 2009 bond funds for preservation programs allocated, New Jersey is at risk of having decades of successful preservation efforts grind to a halt, jeopardizing critical lands that protect our water supply, guard against storm damage and generate billions of dollars in economic benefits. We must act now before it is too late.”

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the successful Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The Act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues, which combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.   New Jersey voters have long been supportive of funding for open space, farmland and historic preservation, passing 13 out of 13 ballot measures since 1961. Moreover, voter surveys continue to indicate overwhelming support for a dedicated sales tax for open space funding. 

A NJ Keep It Green commissioned survey last month of 600 registered likely voters found that 75 percent of voters support dedicating one-fifth of one cent of state sales tax revenues to fund open space, farmland and historic preservation programs.

Fourteen counties – Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – have all passed resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

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MAY 20, 2013

Funding to buy flood-prone properties clears Senate committee

Posted on NorthJersey.com on Monday, May 20, 2013 11:56 am by Anthony Campisi

A Senate panel Monday cleared two bipartisan pieces of legislation that would set aside a portion of the state sales tax to fund programs to buy up flood-prone land, preserve historic sites and conserve open space.

The measures would raise about $200 million annually for open space preservation by diverting one-fifth of a penny from sales tax revenue to fund the Green and Blue Acres programs. The two initiatives, which form the cornerstone of the state’s land preservation efforts, have run out of money — and towns and preservation groups have been pushing the Legislature to set aside a stable source of funding for them.

The move comes a week after Governor Christie announced a $300 million program, funded through federal recovery dollars, to buy flood-prone homes in the wake of superstorm Sandy. Yet state Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, one of the main sponsors of the two measures, said the federal money will “literally going to scratch the surface” given the state’s high property values.

The legislative package would put a question on the ballot asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution to set aside the money — making it more difficult for the governor or the Legislature to raid open space funding to close balance the budget.

To make it onto November’s ballot, two-thirds of both legislative chambers will need to support the measure.

While most environmental groups were in support of the move, Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra club, saying it could cause funding shortfalls and put other programs for weatherization and clean energy at risk in a tight budget year.

Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, was the only member of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee to oppose the legislation.

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MAY 20, 2013

Open Space Ballot Question Approved

By the Associated Press

A Senate committee has signed off on legislation that would let voters decide whether to dedicate a fraction of sales tax revenues to funding land preservation.

Land use experts and preservationists voiced support for putting the question to voters this November before the panel approved the measure 4-1 on Monday.

If approved by voters, the allocation would generate about $200 million a year for the next 30 years.  The lone dissenting vote, Sen. Jennifer Beck of Monmouth County, says she’s concerned other state-funded programs would suffer in a down economy.

The legislation would dedicate one-thirty fifth of sales collections to the protection of farmland, historic sites and properties prone to flooding.

The bill must clear both houses of the Legislature by June 30 to get on this year’s ballot.

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APRIL 25, 2013  

NJ KEEP IT GREEN APPLAUDS WARREN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS FOR SUPPORTING LONG-TERM PRESERVATION FUNDING

 

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today applauded the Warren County Freeholders for unanimously adopting a resolution that supports establishing sustainable funding for the preservation of open space, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey.

Passage of the resolution brings the number of counties that have adopted resolutions in support of dedicated open space funding to 12 – more than half of the 21 counties in the state.

“NJ Keep It Green applauds elected leaders in Warren County, who recognize the importance of protecting our state’s natural and historic resources,” said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep it Green.  “Now that the last of the 2009 bond funds for preservation have been fully allocated, legislators must act this year to put a sustainable source of funding in place that protects the open space, farmland, waterways and historic sites important to our health and economic success in the region.”

The following are just a few example of how preservation funding has benefited Warren County:

  • More than 465 land acquisition and park development projects have been supported through the Green Acres program, helping to preserve more than 28,000 acres of open space.
  • State funds were used to help Warren County acquire The Marble Hill Natural Resource Area, which was recently improved with new trails, multiple informational kiosks and interpretative signs.
  • More than 226 farms, or 21,000 acres, were preserved with funds set aside for farmland preservation.

“Warren County is a special place with a rich history and beautiful scenery,” said Freeholder Director Jason Sarnoski.  “Our communities have benefited greatly from programs such as Green Acres and Farmland Preservation and recognize the importance of a dedicated funding source to sustain them for today’s generation and generations to come.”

David Epstein, president of The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, which is a member of NJ Keep It Green, also praised the Freeholders’ action.

“Developing a new sustainable source of state funding will help Warren County to continue and expand its tradition of preserving farmland, historic resources like the Morris Canal and open spaces that make the county such a wonderful place to live,” said Epstein.  “Preservation funding is an important economic engine, especially in New Jersey’s rural counties, where agriculture plays a major role. As farmers re-invest in working farms, the boost to the local economy is invaluable.  We salute the Warren County Freeholders for their foresight and leadership in supporting this measure.”

NJ Keep It Green supports dedicating $200 million annually in sales-tax revenues for 30 years to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs. 

Based on fiscal year 2012 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.  Sales-tax revenues have increased by an average of $206 million annually over the past two years and are projected to increase by more than $200 million annually going forward.  The dedication would not begin until fiscal year 2015 to avoid any impact on next year’s budget and allow more time for revenues to grow.

In addition to Warren County, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Salem and Union counties have all passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

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APRIL 22, 2013  

Opinion: N.J. should invest sales tax revenue in land preservation

Times of Trenton guest opinion column

By Tom Gilbert and Kelly Mooij

Statistics show that New Jersey is projected to be the first state in the nation to reach complete build-out by mid-century.

But what does that really mean?

In simplest terms, it means that if Gov. Christie and the Legislature do not act now to identify a sustainable source of funding for preservation efforts, New Jersey is at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of acres of priority farmland and open space to development.

This is land that provides us with locally grown food and keeps our drinking water clean, protects us from flooding and lessens the blow from devastating storms, and contributes billions of dollars to our state and local economies.

Letting it disappear would undo a legacy that dates to 1961, when the state established the Green Acres program.

Since then, New Jersey has become a national leader in conserving open space, protecting waterways and preserving farmland and historic sites.  Strong bipartisan and public support has ensured that Green Acres — and the more recently established Blue Acres, Farmland Preservation and Historic Preservation programs — have been well-funded and successful.

Consider that the Green Acres program has preserved more than 650,000 acres of open space and provided more than 1,000 parks and outdoor recreational facilities in every county.

And this year marks the 30th anniversary of the state’s Farmland Preservation program, which has preserved more than 200,000 acres across the state, ensuring this land will remain in agricultural production for decades to come.

Though much has been achieved, there is still much more that needs to be accomplished: 


•The state must preserve an additional 350,000 acres of farmland to maintain a viable agricultural industry. 
• Hundreds of thousands of acres in the Highlands, Pinelands, Barnegat Bay, Delaware Bayshore and elsewhere must be preserved to permanently protect drinking water, important waterways an natural areas.
•Too many communities still lack access to quality parks close to home, especially in our urban areas.
•Green Acres and Blue Acres have important roles to play in protecting communities from more frequent and intense storms by buying out flooded properties and protecting and restoring natural buffers to coastal and inland waterways that can help absorb and mitigate flooding.

Unfortunately, with the funds from a $400 million bond measure approved by voters in 2009 now fully allocated, these critical programs are broke.  Many critical preservation projects throughout the state depend upon timely and continued funding.

In order to continue its legacy of protecting open space, farmland and historic treasures, New Jersey needs to invest $200 million per year for the next several decades to meet immediate and long-term preservation needs. Fortunately, thanks to SCR138/ACR179, the solution is on the table.

Next month, legislators will consider these bills, which would ask voters to approve dedicating $200 million annually in sales-tax revenues for 30 years to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs.

The NJ Keep It Green coalition strongly supports this legislation. We also support amending the legislation to allocate between 10 percent and 20 percent of the funds annually to ensure better stewardship of preserved lands and parks.

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues which, combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.  Based on FY2012 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.

Sales-tax revenues have increased by an average of $206 million annually over the past two years and are projected to increase by more than $200 million annually going forward. The dedication would not begin until FY2015, to avoid any impact on next year’s budget and allow more time for revenues to grow.

The Garden State Preservation Trust is the most successful preservation initiative in the state’s history and a model for states across the nation.  It makes sense to put something similar in place based upon this track record of success.

Voters agree. NJ Keep It Green last year commissioned a survey of 600 registered voters that found 75 percent would support SCR138/ACR179. The survey also found 77 percent support dedicating $200 million annually in sales tax revenues specifically.

Moreover, last December, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities adopted a resolution calling for a sustainable source of funding to continue preservation efforts.

Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem and Union counties, as well as the New Jersey Highlands Council, have all approved similar resolutions.

Dedicating funds from sales tax revenues is a wise and necessary investment.

Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature need to act this year to protect New Jersey’s legacy and ensure continued funding for vital land, water and historic preservation efforts for this generation and generations to come.

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APRIL 21, 2013  

Opinion: Earth Day in the Garden State - NorthJersey.com

Dr. Barbara Brummer is State Director for the New Jersey Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

As we mark Earth Day in 2013, it is an opportunity to reflect upon more than 40 years of our state’s environmental challenges and natural victories, and most importantly, to set priorities — like conserving open space and making our coastal communities more resilient to storms — and take action to bolster our natural resources for the future.

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was founded in 1970, on the first Earth Day ever celebrated in the United States. Legislative triumphs spanning both political parties in the last five decades include the Meadowlands Act, which cleaned up waste dumps in New Jersey’s Meadowlands; the Coastal Wetlands Act, which stopped rampant housing development on critical wetlands; the Pinelands Act, which safeguarded hundreds of thousands of acres in the Pine Barrens, including a major underground water supply and important wildlife habitat; the Farmland Preservation Program, which has preserved more than 200,000 acres of working farms; the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, which halted destruction of freshwater wetlands and nearby land buffers; and the Highlands Act which focuses on keeping Northern New Jersey’s water supply safe.

Green Acres

By far, however, New Jersey’s greatest success has been the Green Acres program. Sustained by strong public support—even during uncertain economic times—for over half a century, it has preserved more than 650,000 acres of undeveloped land, created or restored hundreds of parks and recreation areas, and added almost 300 miles to The New Jersey Trail System. And, by partnering with local governments and like-minded nonprofit organizations, Green Acres has been able to leverage state preservation funds with trusts, foundations, federal grants and private fundraising by nonprofits in many cases to apply matching contributions towards conservation.

As a result of Green Acres and other state, local and nonprofit preservation programs, approximately 30 percent of New Jersey’s land area has been protected. The fact that New Jersey residents have voted again and again in favor of Green Acres reveals that open space is a top concern. And it should be.

New Jersey is projected to be the first state to reach “build-out,” meaning every land parcel will either be developed or protected, sometime around 2050. As we move toward that date, blocks of adjacent properties will become scarcer, and prices will rise prohibitively. The potential to conserve large landscapes and create wildlife corridors will likely disappear. Conservationists only have a 25-year window to make significant strides on behalf of New Jersey’s key landscapes and water systems. There is no time to waste.

Protecting and stewarding our state’s open space and natural infrastructure through the Green Acres Program also serves an important purpose brought all too keenly to light by recent mega-storms: Safeguarding flood-prone areas along the Atlantic Coast and near our many bays and rivers.

The well-intentioned Coastal Area Facilities Review Act, which regulates development of coastal areas in New Jersey, contains exemptions that, combined with pressure from the real estate industry, have allowed communities to be built without regard for how well they can withstand major natural events. We have seen the unfortunate results during and after Hurricane Irene and superstorm Sandy.

Green Acres, and its related Blue Acres program, can help remediate our coastline and riverbanks through matched federal funding to purchase and remove repetitively flooded homes, and restore natural flood plains that can reduce the impacts of ever-intensifying storms.

North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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April 19, 2013

Opinion: Preserving green spaces, natural resources in N.J. should remain vital public policy objective

By Times of Trenton guest opinion column

By Janice S. Mironov

Whether it be preserved open space, farmland, protected vital environmental resources or parkland, all New Jersey residents enjoy the benefits of the state’s active and successful preservation efforts.

These efforts enjoy broad bipartisan political and public support, and for good reason. Good land planning and environmental policy deliver long-term beneficial results. Preservation efforts are investments in our communities, where we live and work, creating balanced land planning and greening our surroundings.

What we do to preserve open space and farmland is vital in preserving and safeguarding precious environmental resources, including protecting our drinking water supply and reducing flooding. Preservation also constitutes good economic policy — it assists the state’s agricultural and tourism industries. For the health and welfare of our communities and residents, substantial unmet needs and significant, worthwhile projects remain for land acquisition, farmland preservation, water protection and park development.

In fact, New Jersey has a lengthy and laudable history of preserving open space and farmland.  The New Jersey Green Acres program has helped to preserve more than 650,000 acres of land and supported more than 1,100 park development projects over the past 50 years. And the State Agricultural Development Committee has preserved 200,000 acres of farmland over the past 30 years.

Municipalities and counties have been key partners and direct beneficiaries of these valuable state preservation programs.  Between 1961 and 1995, New Jersey voters approved nine Green Acres bond referendums. A 1998 referendum authorized the dedication of $98 million annually for a 10-year period from the state’s general fund for open space, farmland and historic preservation.  New Jersey voters subsequently approved additional referendums in 2007 for $200 million and in 2009 for $400 million.

Underscoring the broad citizen support for this goal, we can note that, in the past 30 years, no state ballot measure to fund open space preservation has been defeated.  In late January, Gov. Chris Christie signed a package of bills that provide $123 million in Green Acres and Blue Acres projects statewide. Since those actions allocated the remaining funds under the Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, Farmland and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2009, this is now a significant priority for local governments.

 

In early February, the New Jersey State Senate Environment and Energy Committee began considering various proposals to achieve the goal of implementing a long-term, sustained funding source for preservation programs.

Among the concepts discussed, but not yet acted upon, are a water tax/user fee dedicated to preservation, dedicating a portion of an existing funding source such as the sales tax, or a bond referendum for voter approval.  In the coming days and weeks, other options may emerge and be discussed and considered, as well.

Preserving our green spaces and natural resources should remain a vital public policy objective of our state.  These goals enjoy bipartisan, statewide support. More than 175 organizations around the state have joined the New Jersey Keep It Green Campaign to advocate for the renewal of sustained state funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural and recreational treasures for generations to come.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities, a voluntary, nonpartisan association for the state’s municipal governments, also supports the establishment of a renewed, long-term, dedicated source of state funding to preserve open space and farmland in New Jersey.  Our residents support keeping the garden in the Garden State.

Now, officials at all levels should work together and with groups such as the League, the Keep It Green Campaign and other interested stakeholders to identify a funding source and continue to invest in our state’s future.

Janice S. Mironov is president of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (njslom.org) and mayor of East Windsor Township.

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April 2, 2013

NJ KEEP IT GREEN PRAISES MONMOUTH COUNTY FREEHOLDERS’ SUPPORT
FOR STATE PRESERVATION FUNDING

Monmouth is 11th County to Pass Resolution Supporting Sustainable Funding

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today praised the Monmouth County Freeholders for adopting a resolution that supports establishing sustainable state funding for the preservation and stewardship of open space, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey.

The passage of the Monmouth resolution brings the number of counties that have adopted resolutions in support of dedicated open space funding to 11 – more than half of the 21 counties in the state.

“NJ Keep It Green is pleased that elected leaders in Monmouth County and throughout New Jersey recognize the importance of protecting our state’s land, water and historic resources,” said Tom Gilbert, NJ Keep It Green chairman. “With the last of 2009 bond funds for preservation efforts now allocated, action is needed this year to put a sustainable source of funding to continue critical efforts to preserve open space and farmland, and to protect water quality and flood-prone areas.”

The following are just a few examples of how preservation funding has benefited Monmouth County:

More than 515 land acquisition and park development projects have been supported through the Green Acres program, helping to preserve more than 26,000 acres of open space.

Green Acres funding helped acquire a 44-acre historically significant property known as the Fisher-Stern Estate along Claypit Creek, a Category 1 tributary of the Navesink Creek. The property is an addition to the 787-acre Hartshorne Woods Park, which overlooks the Navesink River and contains one of the highest elevations along the Atlantic Coast.

Nearly 190 Monmouth County farms, or more than 14,000 acres, were preserved with funds set aside for farmland preservation.

“Sustainable open space funding is critical to ensuring Monmouth County remains a place where people want to live, work and visit,” said Freeholder Director Tom Arnone. “As we move forward in our recovery from Hurricane Sandy, programs like Green Acres and Blue Acres have never been more important.”

William D. Kastning, executive director of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation, a member of NJ Keep It Green, applauded the Freeholders’ action.

“The Monmouth County Freeholders clearly recognize that protecting our land and water resources is essential to our health and well-being and that of future generations,” said Kastning. “Their support sends a strong message that establishing a dedicated source of conservation funding needs to be a priority for the Governor and legislature.”

NJ Keep It Green supports legislation (SCR138/ACR179) sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblywoman Grace Spencer that would ask voters to approve dedicating $200 million annually in sales-tax revenues for 30 years to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs.

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The Act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues, which combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.

Based on fiscal year 2012 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. Sales-tax revenues have increased by an average of $206 million annually over the past two years and are projected to increase by more than $200 million annually going forward. The dedication would not begin until fiscal year 2015 to avoid any impact on next year’s budget and allow more time for revenues to grow.

NJ Keep It Green also supports amending the legislation to allocate between 10 and 20 percent of the funds annually to ensure better stewardship of preserved lands and parks that in many cases are deteriorating due to inadequate funding to properly care for them.

In addition to Monmouth County, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem and Union counties have all passed similar resolutions supporting sustainable open space funding as have the NJ Highlands Council and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

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March 26, 2013

NJ KEEP IT GREEN THANKS HIGHLANDS COUNCIL FOR RECOGNIZING IMPORTANCE
OF DEDICATED FUNDING FOR LAND CONSERVATION

TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green today thanked the Highlands Council for passing a resolution in support of a dedicated source of funding for land conservation.

“NJ Keep It Green is pleased that the Highlands Council has recognized the importance of a dedicated source of funding for land conservation to implement the regional master plan, including the need to provide just compensation to landowners,” said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep It Green. “With the last of 2009 bond funds for preservation efforts now allocated, action is needed this year to put a sustainable source of funding in place in order to meet these goals in the Highlands.”

The Highlands Regional Master Plan (RMP) has identified and mapped 92,360 acres of conservation priority lands and 70,197 acres of priority farmland, for a total of 162,557 acres with significant resources in need of preservation.

NJ Keep It Green supports legislation (SCR138/ACR179) sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblywoman Grace Spencer that would ask voters to approve dedicating $200 million annually in sales-tax revenues for 30 years to renew and sustain funding for the Green Acres, Blue Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation programs.

The proposed sales tax dedication is similar to the Garden State Preservation Trust Act approved by voters in 1998. The Act dedicated $98 million in sales tax revenues, which combined with bonding authority, provided $200 million annually for preservation programs over 10 years.

Based on fiscal year 2012 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. Sales-tax revenues have increased by an average of $206 million annually over the past two years and are projected to increase by more than $200 million annually going forward.

The dedication would not begin until fiscal year 2015 to avoid any impact on next year’s budget and allow more time for revenues to grow.

NJ Keep It Green also supports amending the legislation to allocate between 10 and 20 percent of the funds annually to ensure better stewardship of preserved lands and parks that in many cases are deteriorating due to inadequate funding to properly care for them.

In addition to the Highlands Council, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities as well as Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem and Union counties have all passed similar resolutions.

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