Vote “YES” for Preservation
Pat Sziber

State funding for open space, farmland, Blue Acres and historic preservation is now in the hands of New Jersey voters. In late June, the State Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to place the funding question on the November ballot by a bipartisan 36-1 vote. A super-majority approval by both houses of the legislature was needed to guarantee placement of the measure on this year’s ballot. Just as the session was wrapping up, the bill was posted in the Assembly and…to everyone’s great relief…it passed by a 58-9 vote. The NJ Keep It Green Coalition, of which Washington Crossing Audubon is a member, worked tirelessly for two years to assure a long-term dedicated source of funding. Now it is your turn.

As of this year, all Green Acres moneys had been allocated and prospects for preservation were very dim. This would be the first time in decades that the state would be without a dedicated source of funding. For the record, New Jersey voters have never turned down a preservation funding ballot question. But, in these difficult times, there has been concern about any type of tax increase.

The current proposal does not increase the burden on taxpayers. On November 4th, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to reallocate 4% of existing Corporate Business Tax (CBT) revenues already dedicated to environmental programs to the depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, as well as programs to improve water quality and clean up polluted sites. Money for park improvements will also be available. In FY2020, the CBT dedication would increase to 6%. The measure will raise about $71 million a year for four years and increase to $117 million annually in 2019. This is far less preservation money than in the past when an average of $235 million per year has been spent. Nevertheless, this is considered a major victory for conservationists, who value protection of habitat, outdoor recreation, local agriculture, historic treasures and, especially, protection of our water resources.

Along with the 180 other members of the NJ Keep It Green Coalition, we urge you to vote “YES” on this statewide referendum.

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Last revision: Wednesday, April 30, 2014