Here is this week’s edition of The State We’re In column by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
For more than 50 years, New Jerseyans have steadily and enthusiastically supported open space preservation. Every one of the 13 land preservation funding ballot questions since 1962 was approved by the voters, in good economic times and bad.
Most recently, in 2014, voters took the unprecedented step of creating a permanent, stable source of preservation funding. Sixty-five percent voted “yes” on a constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of New Jersey’s corporate business tax revenues to preserving open space, parks, farms and historic sites.
Here in the nation’s most densely populated state, residents know how important it is to save lands that protect drinking water, provide outdoor places for children to play, grow fresh foods and provide habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife. There’s not a town or county in the Garden State that has not benefited from land preserved through taxpayer-approved open space and farmland preservation funding.
Unfortunately, even with the overwhelming passage of the constitutional amendment, funds are still not available.
Dedicated revenue from corporate business taxes has been accumulating in state coffers, but not a single dollar has been spent as the voters intended. Worthwhile projects are withering from lack of funding.
Enabling legislation to allocate the funds was vetoed by Governor Christie earlier this year.
Undeterred, the Legislature again passed the open space bill and sent it to the governor. It’s now waiting on Governor Christie’s desk.
But things aren’t looking good. The governor has signaled his intent to veto the bill again, suggesting he wants “flexibility” in allocating the funds.
That is wrong. New Jersey’s voters made their intentions clear in November of 2014. They want to continue preserving open space and farmland to keep the Garden State green. To do so in a consistent and predictable way, we need the enabling legislation. Corporate business tax revenues were not constitutionally dedicated to plug holes in the budget or be diverted for other purposes!
As of this week, over 6,000 residents have signed a petition calling on Governor Christie to sign the open space bill and allow this state we’re in to keep preserving lands that are important to our health and well-being.
Your help is needed to convince Governor Christie listen to his constituents and do the right thing. To sign the online petition, go to www.greenactions.org/tell-christie-sign-open-space-bill?sc=openspace.NJCF. To contact Governor Christie directly through the state website, go to www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at email@example.com. or call 908-997-0716