The Keep It Green Coalition (KIG) made up of more than 150 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, has sent a letter to Governor Murphy and Legislative leaders asking for the continuation of New Jersey’s 2.5% Corporate Business Tax Surcharge (CBT surcharge), which is set to expire at the end of 2023.

The CBT surcharge provides necessary funding for the acquisition, preservation and stewardship of open space, farmland and historic sites throughout New Jersey through the Garden State Preservation Trust. The KIG coalition is concerned about the loss of at least $436,000,000 from the CBT over the next ten years for land preservation and the maintenance of existing open spaces throughout the state.

The funding from the CBT is used to preserve green spaces that serve as a vital ecosystem for a changing climate, helping to mitigate the effects of extreme heat and flooding and stormwater runoff, and will save the state an immeasurable economic value as extreme climate events become more frequent.

New Jerseyans also have a long history of supporting land preservation and open space funding. In 2014, 65% of New Jersey voters approved amending the state constitution to provide long term sustainable funding for open space, farmland preservation, and historic preservation by dedicating a portion of the CBT to these programs.

“CBT funding is vital to maintaining open space, which is important for outdoor recreation and is also an economic boon. Outdoor recreation in New Jersey was valued at $20.3 billion in 2021. This money should continue to be invested in open spaces, which brings environmental and economic benefits for the entire state, said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “We’re asking Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature to continue our state’s long legacy of support and funding for land preservation and open space by not letting the CBT surcharge expire. The expiration of the surcharge on the 2% wealthiest corporations would mean the loss of $480,000,000 in critical open space funding over just 10 years and will do irreparable harm to our beautiful state.”

“The NJDEP recently highlighted the need to improve equitable access to open space for overburdened communities. Simultaneously, Garden State residents and businesses are increasingly struggling with flooding impacts from the climate crisis. Now is the time to invest in open space preservation that provides the green infrastructure we need to keep NJ healthy and strong. Governor Murphy’s plan to give big businesses a tax cut at the expense of cutting $60 million annually in funding from open space preservation and hazardous cleanup programs is wrongheaded and shameful, said Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director, ANJEC.

“The State Agriculture Development Committee’s recent announcement that they will purchase 600 acres of some of New Jersey’s best farmland soils in White Township, Warren County, advances the protection of agriculture, a key industry in our State. It also ends an application to build massive warehouses more than 10 miles from any highway that would have introduced thousands of heavy trucks to county roads on a daily basis. The announcement is hugely popular with everyone — state and county leadership, the municipalities in the region, with folks who chose to retire to Warren County, local residents — everyone. Important actions such as this by SADC, especially at this scale, are impossible if funding is not available,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director, New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

“The CBT Surcharge sunsetting will have a major impact on historically overburdened and marginalized communities who utilize public transportation regularly as well as impede their access to green spaces throughout the state. It is imperative that we remember that this funding is needed to support a host of environmental protection programs and access throughout New Jersey,” said Dr. Jacqueleen Bido, CEO, Elevate Newark.

“Protecting and preserving land protects and preserves the Pinelands.  Research shows that land disturbance of greater than 10% of an area changes the water quality of the Pinelands.  We need more money now than ever before due to increasing costs and increasing development pressures, to acquire the last lands that can make or break the Pinelands environment for people and wildlife. This need in combination with additional unmet land management costs call for KEEPING CBT surcharge AND aggressively looking for other sources,” said Jaclyn Rhoads, Assistant Executive Director, Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
 
“Ensuring that open spaces remain protected and accessible for all New Jerseyans means that everyone, including those from emerging communities, will have continued and increasing access not only to these spaces but to the health and mental benefits such environments provide. The degradation of open spaces through diminishing financial support is a threat to the whole of the Garden State and its population,” said L. Renata Barnes, Director of Programming and Community Engagement Outdoor Equity Alliance.

“New Jersey’s open space, farmland and historic preservation programs improve the lives of all New Jerseyans by protecting our drinking water supplies, storing carbon, providing habitat for wildlife, supplying Jersey Fresh produce, and ensuring access to healthy recreation opportunities in rural, suburban and urban communities,” said Tom Gilbert, Co-Executive Director of NJ Conservation Foundation. “If the CBT surcharge is not renewed, funding for these vital efforts will be significantly reduced which we can ill afford in the most densely populated state in the nation.”

“New Jersey voters have repeatedly expressed their desire to invest in open space.  As we confront the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and inequitable access to nature, the investment needs are greater than ever. Funding reductions at this critical moment could undermine efforts to create a thriving and resilient future in the Garden State,” said Alex Ireland, President & CEO, New Jersey Audubon.

In the coming weeks, members of the KIG coalition along with other advocates and supporters of the CBT hope to speak with Governor Murphy and New Jersey Legislators about the dire need to keep the funding for open space and land preservation in New Jersey.