September 24, 2014
In this year’s November 4th election – SAVE THE DATE! – New Jersey voters will get to decide whether four percent of the money collected from New Jersey’s corporate business tax will go to preserve open space. Our friends at New Jersey’s Keep it Green campaign have developed the below Q&A to help voters understand the question and its ramifications. Scroll down to learn more.
PUBLIC QUESTION NO. 2: The Clean Water, Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Dedication
What does the ballot measure do?
The measure ensures stable funding for the preservation and care of open space, parks, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas. The funding will replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks, and clean-up polluted sites.
Why do we need it?
All funds from the statewide bond that voters approved in 2009 are fully allocated. There is no new money left for preservation programs in New Jersey, but tremendous needs remain. According to a report by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, more than 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect natural and water resources and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities to a growing population. At least 350,000 acres of additional farmland must be preserved to maintain a viable agriculture industry, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
How will we pay for it?
The state currently dedicates 4 percent of the money collected from the Corporate Business Tax to help pay for some environmental programs. The ballot measure changes the way some of the programs are funded and raises the amount from 4 percent to 6 percent beginning in July 2019. The measure only changes the dedication of existing tax dollars, and does not increase taxes.
The measure also dedicates money received from leases and other uses of state open space lands to pay for open space, farmland and historic preservation.
How much money will be dedicated to preservation programs?
Under the measure, Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs will receive an estimated $71 million annually the first four years and then an estimated $117 million annually thereafter. Comparatively, open space, farmland and historic preservation programs have received an average of $200 million annually since the establishment of the Garden State Preservation Trust in 1998. If the ballot measure passes in November, it will provide reduced but critical baseline funding.
How much money will be dedicated to environmental programs?
An estimated $29 million annually for the first four years would be allocated to other critical environmental programs already provided for by CBT funds, including watershed management (5%), underground storage tanks (9%), brownfields (10%), and public clean-ups of polluted sites (5%). While funding for several of these programs would be reduced somewhat at the outset, critical baseline funding for all of the programs remains and would likely grow over time. In 2019 the percentage of the corporate business tax dedication increases from 4% to 6%, with 22% of the funds dedicated to these environmental programs.
What about funding for state and urban parks?
The measure will continue to fund park acquisition and development as well as the care and stewardship of parks through the Green Acres program. Green Acres has a proven track record of providing for the purchase and development of parks – state, county and local – across New Jersey. In fact, Liberty State Park, the most visited state park in New Jersey and the crown jewel of the state park system, has received over $29 million under Green Acres to create and improve the park. Moreover, Green Acres provided more than $336 million in grants to counties and municipalities for park development projects between 2000 and 2012.
Does the measure include funding to maintain the parks and open spaces that are already preserved or will be preserved?
Yes. This measure will help us take better care of the parks and natural areas we already have. It will fund critical repairs, restoration and improvements to parks, natural areas and lakes, rivers and streams across New Jersey – making it easier for the public to visit and enjoy them.
How do preservation efforts support job creation?
Preservation efforts create jobs and also improve the environment – building and repairing parks, restoring damaged landscapes, keeping our family farms working, and restoring historic landmarks. In fact, according to a prior study, 2010 Green Acres park development funds of $28.3 million were conservatively estimated to support 977 construction jobs as well as many technical professionals.
How will this impact the state budget?
For the first four years (FY16-FY19) the measure will simply change how the 4% of existing corporate business tax revenues already dedicated for environmental purposes is allocated, without dedicating any additional state revenues. In FY20 and beyond, the dedication of existing corporate business tax revenues for preservation and environmental programs increases from 4% to 6%. That amounts to an estimated increase of $50 million annually, which is less than one-quarter of one percent of current state revenues.