The New Jersey Legislature must approve a state budget before it adjourns for summer recess at the end of June in order to avoid a government shut-down. Although DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson has stated that the recommended layoff notices to state park employees were not issued as originally recommended, the Governor has asked the department to "review the full range of funding options potentially available to financially support parks operations on a going forward basis." This vaguely-worded directive appears to suggest that people will be shuffled around and cuts in parks services remain a strong possibility. Furthermore, the cancellation of layoffs does not address seasonal employees—those who staff summer concessions and activities. Loss of seasonal workers can have a far-reaching impact on summertime recreation close to home and can result in loss of revenue for private enterprises in the parks’ gateway communities.
Also included in the Governor’s budget proposal is a 20% cut in funding for the Pinelands Commission—a $780,000 drop for FY2009. The Commission is already understaffed due to the hiring freeze. Further loss would have a very dangerous effect on the Commission’s ability to keep up with complex policy issues and the constant stream of development plans. The Pinelands Commission is charged with the enormous task of protecting the environment and natural resources of one-fifth of the state of New Jersey.
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance proposes that the Governor and Legislature reexamine the Pinelands Commission budget and make two changes to the current proposal. First, include the Pinelands Commission in the statewide interdepartmental accounts for benefits and pensions (these expenses currently come out of the Commission’s operating budget.) Second, reduce the cut in state funding for the Commission in FY2009 to a 10% cut, or a reduction of $340,000.
What you can do: Contact Governor Corzine and urge him to restore sufficient funding in the state budget to keep our parks fully operational and also to incorporate PPA’s recommendations for the Pinelands Commission. Contact him at www.state.nj.us/governor/govmail.html. Also contact the following influential legislators: Senator Barbara Buono, Chair of Budget and Appropriations; Senator Paul A. Sarlo, Vice Chair of Budget and Appropriations; Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald, Budget Committee Chair; Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer, Vice Chair of Assembly Budget Committee; Senate President Richard J. Codey; Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts, Jr. Their contact information can be found at www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/roster.asp.